Coronavirus has killed 16 people in Mississippi, new forecast shows 1,203 more may die before virus wanes

Published 9:13 am Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Health care data forecasters are predicting the worst of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic will come to Mississippi over the next three weeks, peaking on April 21, what statistically is forecast to be the deadliest day.

A forecast model created by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) shows the peak of the pandemic will be April 21 in Mississippi.

IMHE is an independent global health research center at the University of Washington.

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The researchers say stats show Mississippi may be short 363 ICU beds, though hospitals around the state have been rushing to convert unused or underutilized space into areas to dedicate to COVID-19 patients.

The IMHE forecast only goes through early August, but predicts approximately 1,223 Mississippians will die from the virus.

Through Tuesday morning, the Mississippi State Department of Health numbers indicated 20 have died so far.

The IMHE research indicates Mississippi may need approximately 562 ventilators, which are used to help the most ill COVID-19 patients to breathe.

While it’s unclear exactly how many ventilators Mississippi hospitals currently have available, The Clarion Ledger newspaper reported earlier in March that a 2010 study indicated Mississippi had 769 ventilators, which was among the highest number per capita for any state.

At the peak, on April 21, the IMHE model indicates an average of 47 deaths will occur per day.

Researchers say COVID-19 deaths are likely to persist into July, even if people strongly adhere to social distancing measures and other precautions.

“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 (IHME) 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.”

IHME’s analysis, based on observed death rates, estimates that over the next four months in the US, approximately 81,000 people will die from the virus. Estimates range between 38,000 and 162,000 US deaths.

The analysis was developed in response to requests from the University of Washington School of Medicine and other US 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. (The end is defined as fewer than 10 deaths per day nationwide.)

“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.