The Investigators: COVID-19 map predicts when hospitals will be overloaded in the Mid-South

Specifies surges on a county-by-county level

The Investigators: Mid-South hospital capacity map breakdown

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Some hospitals in the Mid-South could be overloaded with COVID-19 patients in less than two weeks, according to a new data mapping tool that breaks down predicted hospital surges by county.

The map was created by Covid Act Now.

“The trend does not look good and more has to be done,” said Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, an Alaskan state representative and a co-founder Covid Act Now.

This week, the Shelby County COVID-19 task force said that the number of infections has not yet reached its peak and local hospitals are working around the clock to expand their capacities.

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“We have not yet reached our peak here,” said Doug McGowen, Chief Operating Officer for the City of Memphis. “Today we are in very good shape but we know with a surge coming, at least we understand when we might reach that capacity.”

According to the Covid Act Now data, Shelby County hospitals could be overburdened by next month.

The group took hospital bed data from the Kaiser Family Foundation and a private healthcare analytics firm and married it with infection data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

“The goal of this data modeling is to get a little bit more of a visual and intuitive sense about how rapidly this virus can infect people if we let it,” said Kreiss-Tomkins.

The model aims to predict when hospitals will be overloaded based on how closely people follow Stay at Home and Shelter in Place orders.

If Shelby County residents strictly follow Governor Bill Lee’s Stay at Home order by limiting travel to doctor’s visits and food runs, the map shows hospitals won’t be overloaded in the next three months.

However, if people are more lax and don’t act with extreme caution, Shelby County hospitals will stretch beyond their capacity by May 26.

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In Mississippi and Arkansas, the outlook is worse for some local counties.

Hospitals in Tippah County will be overloaded no matter what, according to the data, and it could happen as soon as next week.

Governor Tate Reeves told The Investigators that while Mississippi has not yet reached its peak either, models like the one created by Covid Act Now continue to change for the better.

“The projections have declined considerably over the last 6 to 7 days and I believe it’s because the vast majority of Mississippians, and I’m talking 90-plus percent, are doing exactly what we’ve asked them to do,” Gov. Reeves said.

The model also predicts that hospitals in Crittenden County will become overloaded.

Neither a Stay at Home nor Shelter in Place order is in effect for Arkansas.

Governor Asa Hutchinson said Thursday that several models suggest critical hospital surges in his state but the data has kept him confident so far.

“We’re reducing that spread and we’re releasing people from the hospital,” Gov. Hutchinson said.

He did say Arkansas has not yet reached its peak of COVID-19 infections.

The Investigators showed the Covid Act Now map to Baptist Hospital Infectious Disease doctor Steve Threlkeld, who says no matter what it shows, we need to socially distance.

“Whether we’re yellow or green or red on a map compared to some other county should not tell us anything about what we ought to be doing. We already know that,” he said.

Coronavirus Q&A with Dr. Steve Threlkeld April 10

Dr. Threlkeld also said the map, like other data sets, has reliability limitations because it relies on testing and there isn’t enough of that yet.

“We need testing to know where it is, who to isolate and quarantine," said Dr. Threlkeld. "We need antibody testing too, to know how much of it has already occurred and moved on.”

Shelby County is in the process of creating two alternative care sites because, according to City officials, area hospitals will almost certainly reach their capacities in the coming months or even weeks.

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