Projections show the peak of the coronavirus in North Carolina may be in May, according to one study.
If social distancing policies are kept in place through May, hospital resources have a lower chance of being stressed by the coronavirus, according to a study released by North Carolina health researchers and epidemiologists.
If the social-distancing policies are lifted at the end of April, the hospitals have a higher chance of being overrun with coronavirus patients and their resources strained, especially acute and intensive care beds, according to the study released by health researchers with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Duke University, NoviSci Inc. and RTI International.
North Carolina has over 8,296 hospital beds available and more than 18,000 beds in the state. There are about 3,000 ventilators in the state and about 700 are in use, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services website.
Locally, Frye Regional Medical Center has 355 hospital beds and Catawba Valley Medical Center has 258, according to the American Hospital Directory.
Frye and CVMC did not say how many beds there are available. The study assumed an average of 45 percent of beds are typically full and in use at hospitals, which would leave about 337 hospital beds available in Catawba County.
The study estimates that if policies like the stay-at-home order are kept in place past the end of April, about 250,000 people in North Carolina could be infected with coronavirus by June 1. If the policies are lifted, that number could be 750,000, the study found.
Another view of the pandemic
A different study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington also shows hospital resources may not be stressed by COVID-19 patients if strict social-distancing rules are kept in place through May.
Last week, the IHME updated its predictions for how many may die due to COVID-19, cutting the number of deaths in North Carolina from the almost 2,500 originally predicted to about 520. The peak day went down from 50 predicted deaths to 27.
The update also predicts North Carolina won’t run out of ventilators and hospital beds during the peak surge of coronavirus cases. Originally, the study estimated the state’s hospitals would be overloaded.
The update takes into account new information from other affected regions and new restrictions put in place, like the “stay-at-home” order that went into effect at the end of March, according to IHME.
The IHME predicts at the peak of the virus, forecast to be today, the state may need between 646 and 2,866 hospital beds, at most about 40 percent of the available hospital beds in North Carolina.
Catawba County Public Health Director Jennifer McCracken said the county has been preparing for the outbreak with community and health-care partners. “We are constantly planning ahead by assessing future needs and identifying additional resources in all areas affected by this evolving situation,” McCracken said.
McCracken said the best way to not overrun hospitals is to stop the spread of the virus.
“No matter how ready we are, the best way to prepare for more cases is to prevent more cases, and that’s going to take all of us,” McCracken said. “If we each do everything we possibly can to prevent the spread of this disease, we can help lessen its impact on our community and our health-care system.”
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