State’s coronavirus cases to peak April 20, experts warn

By Kevin Beese Staff Reporter

Teams from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chicago District have been actively providing planning and assessments for potential sites for alternate care facilities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in Illinois, following recommendations from state and local partners. McCormick Place, the largest convention center in North America located in downtown Chicago, was assessed as a possible alternate care facility March 23, 2020. (U.S. Army photo by Patrick Bray/Released)

Health experts predict that Illinois will not hit its peak of coronavirus cases until April 20.

Officials with the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said that some states will not hit their peak of COVID-19 cases until May and that more than 93,000 people will die from the disease in the United States.

Illinois has had a stay-at-home order in place and closed nonessential businesses and services since March 21. Educational facilities in the state have been closed since March 17.

The University of Washington health metric analysts say that Illinois will not have a bed shortage when virus cases peak. They said Illinois will need 10,944 beds for COVID-19 patients and will have 14,552 beds available.

The state, however, is expected to have a shortage of intensive care unit beds. Analysts predict the state will run 507 ICU beds short — having 1,131 ICU beds available and needing 1,638 beds at the virus’ peak.

Experts also predicted the state will need 1,311 invasive ventilators as of April 20 but had no estimate on whether the state would be able to meet that demand.

Illinois will see an estimated 109 people die on April 20 and will record 3,386 total COVID-19 deaths by Aug. 4, the health analysts project.

“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 at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine. “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.”

Murray and other analysts at the University of Washington said their model shows that social distancing will likely lead to the end of the first wave of the national epidemic by early June.

“The question of whether there will be a second wave of the epidemic will depend on what we do to avoid reintroducing COVID-19 into the population,” the health analysts said on their website. “By the end of the first wave of the epidemic, an estimated 97 percent of the population of the United States will still be susceptible to the disease, so avoiding reintroduction of COVID-19 through mass screening, contact tracing and quarantine will be essential to avoid a second wave.”

The University of Washington analysts said their model is designed to be a planning tool and is informed by the shape that other COVID-19 outbreaks are taking, in terms of deaths, around the world and across the United States. Other models, they said, may use other approaches, such as assuming a population where everyone was equally likely to interact with everyone else, and model different scenarios such as the absence of, or different levels of, social distancing. These models are useful for motivating action to prevent such worst-case scenarios, while the University of Washington model is designed to specifically address the planning needs of hospital administrators and local governments, they said.

“Ultimately, these forecasts were developed to provide hospitals, health care workers, policymakers, and the public with crucial information about what demands COVID-19 may place on hospital capacity and resources, so that they could begin to plan,” the health analysts said.

The data used in their forecasts comes from local and national governments, hospital networks, the American Hospital Association, the World Health Organization, and a range of other sources, the health analysts said.

Pritzker said the state is closely tracking hospitalization data across the state and is continuing to prepare for a rapid increase in hospitalizations. As part of its approach, the state is working to reopen additional facilities — the former Advocate Sherman Hospital campus in Elgin, the Metro South Health Center in Blue Island, and Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park.

The state is also acquiring Vibra Hospital in Springfield to expand hospital capacity in central Illinois.