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Medical professionals work at a coronavirus testing tent at the Brooklyn Hospital Centre in New York on Thursday. Photo: EPA-EFE

Coronavirus: US could see 2,300 deaths a day, even with social distancing, study says

  • Analysis shows fatalities may top 80,000 over next four months, with ‘dramatically’ worse outcome if precautionary measures are relaxed
  • Researchers at University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation reviewed latest Covid-19 data at local, national and international levels

Covid-19 could lead to more than 80,000 deaths in the US and overwhelm hospital capacity nationally as soon as early April even if social distancing measures are respected, new research showed on Thursday.

The US death toll for the pandemic has already soared past 1,000. At least 81,321 people in the US are known to have been infected with the coronavirus, more cases than China, Italy or any other country has seen, according to data gathered by The New York Times.

Forecasters at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine analysed the latest Covid-19 data at a local, national and international level.

This included hospitalisation and mortality rates, as well as patient date in terms of age, gender and pre-existing health problems.

Specifically, they examined the time lag between the first fatal cases and public interventions such as closing schools and businesses.

They then reviewed each American state’s ICU bed and ventilator capacity.

The analysis warned that based on current trends, demand for both would far exceed capacity for Covid-19 patients as early as the second week of April.

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During the epidemic peak – also set for some point in April – as many as 2,300 patients could die every day, according to the IHME models.

This was the case even if the population adhered to strict social distancing measures.

A ventilator is seen at the New York City Emergency Management Warehouse on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

“Our estimated trajectory of Covid-19 deaths assumes continued and uninterrupted vigilance by the general public, hospital workers, and government agencies,” said Christopher Murray, IHME director.

“The trajectory of the pandemic will change – and dramatically for the worse – if people ease up on social distancing or relax with other precautions.”

The analysis estimated that around 81,000 people in the US will die from the virus over the coming four months.

Estimates ranged between 38,000 and more than 160,000 fatalities.

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It forecast that a total of 41 US states will need more ICU beds than are now available and that 12 states may need to increase their capacity by 50 per cent or more to accommodate patient needs.

The economic shutdown triggered by the coronavirus pandemic caused an unprecedented 3.28 million people to file first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week alone.

“We hope these forecasts will help leaders of medical systems figure out innovative ways to deliver high-quality care to those who will need their services in the coming weeks,” Murray said.

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