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Independent forecast projects Minnesota to hit COVID-19 peak by mid-April

Independent health researchers are predicting the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic in Minnesota to take place in three weeks with peak resources expected to be needed by April 18.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a global health research center at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, is studying data on confirmed COVID-19 deaths each day from World Health Organization websites and local and national governments, as well as data on hospital capacity and utilization for states. It is using this information to develop a statistical model forecasting deaths and hospital utilization against capacity by state over the next four months.

According to its research, the United States will reach its peak resource use on April 15, with a shortage of 54,046 beds across the nation, and specifically a shortage of 13,856 intensive care unit beds. New cases are projected to continue through mid-July.

In Minnesota, the institute expects the state to reach its peak April 18, with new cases continuing to be reported through the middle to end of May. The institute estimates 4,557 hospital beds will be needed on the peak date, with 712 of those being ICU beds.

Minnesota officials said Tuesday afternoon in a press conference that the model they had used set peak infections at early May through early June, according to data available last week, but that data has likely changed.

State officials are actively seeking out more hospital beds in preparation for increased needs.

“Our estimated trajectory of COVID-19 deaths assumes continued and uninterrupted vigilance by the general public, hospital and health workers, and government agencies,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. “The trajectory of the pandemic will change — and dramatically for the worse — if people ease up on social distancing or relax with other precautions. We encourage everyone to adhere to those precautions to help save lives.”

The institute predicts 49 COVID-19 deaths projected per day in Minnesota at the peak of the pandemic, with a total of 1,039 deaths projected statewide through Aug. 4. The Minnesota Department of Health reported its 12th death Tuesday.

The institute’s analysis estimates that over the next four months in the U.S., approximately 81,000 people will die from the virus. Estimates range between 38,000 and 162,000 U.S. deaths.

The analysis was developed in response to requests from the University of Washington School of Medicine and other U.S. hospital systems and state governments working to determine when COVID-19 would overwhelm their ability to care for patients. The state-by-state data analysis projects demand for hospital services, including the availability of ventilators, beds and general hospital beds. 

The forecast predicts that 41 states will need more ICU beds than they currently have available and that 11 states may need to increase their ICU beds by 50% or more to meet patient needs before the current wave of the pandemic ends.

“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.