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Models suggest social distancing flattens NC's COVID-19 spread
Health experts: Stay at home order helps
Published Monday, April 6, 2020 8:12 pm
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

North Carolina health experts released a model forecast that concluded residents need to limit personal contact through April 30, the end of the state's stay at home order to limit spread of COVID-19.

Social spacing remains the best path to limit the spread of coronavirus infections North Carolina.

A collection of state health experts today released a composite model forecast of how COVID-19 could affect North Carolina over the near term. The models, constructed by experts from UNC Chapel Hill, Duke University, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and state and private health organizations reinforced the need for limiting personal contact to slow the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that health care is there for people who need it.

If all social distancing were to stop at the end of the month, the model estimates 750,000 North Carolina residents could be infected by June 1. If initiatives, such as the statewide stay at home order instituted last month remains in place and adhered to, the rate of infection could fall to an estimated 250,000 people.

“We have life-changing decisions before us and North Carolina is fortunate to have world-class experts who can help our state as we continue battling the coronavirus,” Gov. Roy Cooper said. “Modeling is one tool that helps us prepare for this fight and it shows we will save lives if we stay home and keep our social distance right now.”

“The modeling affirms that the actions we take now will determine how this virus will impact North Carolina in the weeks and months to come,” state Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen MD said. “We need to continue to do everything in our power so that fewer people get sick at the same time, while also surging the capacity of our health care system so those that do need hospital care will have it. Please stay home now to save lives.”

The composite model found that state social distancing policies with effectiveness similar to those already in place will lower the likelihood of overwhelming North Carolina’s healthcare system a spike of COVID-19 patients at the same time. However, ending social distancing at the end of April leads to a “greater than 50 percent probability that acute care and ICU bed capacity will be outstripped… as soon as Memorial Day” according to the researchers.

The researchers found that ramping up availability of space and health care professionals to treat accelerating COVID-19 cases will be critical.

“[E]xpanding hospital bed capacity (and, crucially, identifying the workforce necessary to staff those beds) is very important as the state prepares for new demand from COVID-19 patients,” according to the report. “However, absent other policies to also slow infection spread, expanding hospital capacity alone will likely be an insufficient response to estimated COVID-19-related demand.”

According to the composite model, hospital surge to create more available bed space could provide some help, but not enough to help hospitals meet demand if all social distancing efforts were ended. 


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