SALT LAKE CITY — The estimation models on how many deaths and hospitalizations that can be expected from COVID-19 in Utah have improved dramatically in the last few days.
The updated projection models from the Institutes for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington give some hope that Utah’s health care systems will not be overwhelmed by the virus.
Despite the improvement in projections for the number of deaths, Utah epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said state officials were still preparing for the worst-case scenarios.
“We are hopeful that those predictions hold true, but we’re preparing for the case that they might not be,” she said.
Those models still estimate April 15 will be the peak for COVID-19 deaths in the United States. The predicted peak in Utah has moved back two days, from April 23 to 25.
The Beehive State’s total number of projected deaths by August was drastically down from nearly 600, to fewer than 200 in the updated projection.
Dunn talked about the reason for the change during Monday’s daily media briefing from the Utah Department of Health.
“We’re not seeing an exponential growth that is expected,” she said. “Because of that, our predicted deaths are low.”
Still a terrible situation, but not as dire as it once appeared.
The model before the weekend also projected 18 deaths for five straight days at the peak. That has been revised down to five to seven deaths, and a flatter curve.
The projection for the number of people to be hospitalized was also revised to less than a quarter of what was predicted previously, down significantly from 1,800 to 400.
Utah’s hospitalization rate of COVID-19 patients remained steady at about 10 percent. It also appeared Utah will have the necessary ICU beds to handle the predicted surge of cases.
The projections were based upon incoming data, and they can change again as the actual numbers are entered into the model.
“We are always preparing for worst-case scenarios,” said Dunn. “We are actively planning for what we would do if there is a surge on our health care systems, to ensure that those who need medical care can get it.“
All of these models were based upon the public adhering to strict social distancing practices through the end of May — meaning it’s not the time for anyone in the state to let their guard down and go back to life as usual.
“These are all still models, so the daily case counts and the more data we put into these models, the more accurate they will be,” said Dunn. “They are likely to change over the coming weeks, as well.”