Researchers at the University of Michigan say aggressive social distancing can reduce the number of COVID-19 patients in their hospitals by up to 65% when it peaks in early May.
The results were released Tuesday afternoon and offer more evidence that social distancing, which flattens the curve, will work.
“This data confirms that everyone in Michigan can help us flatten the curve and it is crucial. This is not to be taken lightly,” said Vikas Parekh, M.D., associate chief clinical officer for Michigan Medicine’s adult hospitals and professor of internal medicine.
Through sustained and prolonged social distancing, Parkh says Michigan can reduce the portion of the population who become infected and significantly reduce these estimates for the number of patients who would require hospitalization.
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Michigan Medicine released these two models of how social distancing can flatten the curve. Image: Michigan Medicine
“Our models show that in this worst-case scenario, with less social distancing, our peak census of patients in U-M hospitals could be as high as 5860 patients on May 4. With aggressive social distancing, the model shows about 2000 patients on that same date," Parekh said.
Michigan Medicine has 1,000 beds but is preparing options to accommodate a surge of patients, including redeployment of staff, converting other space in the hospitals for patient care, or converting nearby university dormitories.
They're also evaluating the indoor track building which could hold 500 beds.
Michigan Medicine leaders are urging the community to heed the warnings and follow the 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' order.
“We have teams working around the clock to plan for this potential surge in patients. The projections are alarming. But we know, based on experiences in Italy and China and other countries, that we can significantly flatten that curve with the help of the public,” said Marschall Runge, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of Michigan Medicine, dean of the U-M Medical School and executive vice president for Medical Affairs at the University of Michigan. “We prepare constantly for emergencies like this and have some of the world’s top experts preparing for the problem. But we need your help, and these projections prove it.”
Aggressive social distancing means staying away from anyone else outside your immediate family and limiting going out to a store or pharmacy for only urgent needs. Schools and businesses close and large gatherings are cancelled. Walking outside is fine as long as people maintain a six-foot distance.
Parekh and others are closely monitoring how often the number of patients double each day. In Italy, after each social distancing intervention was made, the doubling time went from 3 days to greater than 8 days after several weeks of sustained social distancing interventions.
“The impact is striking. It is critical that our community maintains a high level of social distancing to help our healthcare community continue to care for COVID-19 patients and all of our patients at the highest, best standards,” Parekh said.
Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath.
To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.
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And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms - don't go straight to your doctor's office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.
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