On April 6, a team of local health experts released a projection model looking at how COVID-19 could affect North Carolina in the coming months. Since its release, state health officials and Gov. Roy Cooper have implemented measures to slow the spread of the virus and preserve hospital capacity to save lives.
As a result, the spread of the virus through North Carolina is at a slower pace due to North Carolinians practicing social distancing. For now, Cooper and North Carolina health officials are continuing to encourage residents to adhere to the stay at home orders to flatten the curve and protect vulnerable populations.
According to officials, the models – constructed by experts from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, RTI International, and others – enforced the need for limiting personal contact and ensure health care is there for those who need it.
“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,” explains NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen, MD. “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 model has found that social distancing policies similar to those in North Carolina will help lower the likelihood of the healthcare system becoming overloaded with a spike of coronavirus patients at the same time. However, the forecast shows that ending all 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 model, hospital surge to create more available bed space could provide some help, but officials say it would not be enough to help hospitals meet demand if all social distancing efforts were ended.
If all social distancing were to stop at the end of April, officials say the model estimates that roughly 750,000 North Carolinians could be infected by June 1. If some form of effective social distancing remains in place after April, the model shows that number is lowered 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,” says Governor Roy Cooper. “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.”
In a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, over 81 percent say Americans “should continue to socially distance for as long as is needed to curb the spread of coronavirus, even if it means continued damage to the economy”.
According to a report by researchers at the University of Chicago, social distancing could save the country over $8 trillion in economic benefits by saving well over a million lives.
“The economic benefits of lives saved outweigh the value of the projected losses of GDP by about $5.2 trillion,” according to a new report by researchers led by economist Linda Thunstrom.
The continued practice of social distancing will yield several benefits for the country and our communities but only if everyone adheres to the safety measures. In order to decrease the pressure on the health care system and to protect each other, we must continue to practice safe social distancing.
This moment calls on us to go all in for all of us. To protect vulnerable populations, frontline workers and healthcare providers, we must have their backs and continue social distancing.