NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A leading COVID-19 model watched closely by Tennessee state officials has once again downgraded its forecast for the Volunteer State.
The model, from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), now projects that Tennessee will only need 632 hospital beds when the coronavirus crisis reaches its peak -- now expected later this week.
A week ago, it was predicting a need for more than 1,200 beds.
There are more than 7,800 hospital beds in the state.
Earlier models, developed prior to Gov. Bill Lee's stay-at-home order, suggested Tennessee could face a shortage of some 7,000 hospital beds, prompting the state to begin planning for makeshift hospitals at the Music City Center and other sites around the state.
Still, those models assume social distancing efforts will continue through the end of May.
Leading medical figures have suggested the continuing improvement in the forecasts demonstrate that social distancing efforts are paying off.
The latest predictions also conclude that Tennessee will need 151 Intensive Care Unit beds - down from 245 a week ago.
There are more than 600 ICU beds in the state.
In addition, the latest model predicts there could be 481 deaths - down from 587 a week ago.
Earlier projections had Tennessee facing the prospect of as many as 3,259 COVID-19 deaths.
Nationwide, the IHME model now predicts 68,841 Americans will die from COVID-19, down from the previous forecast of 93,531 deaths.
On the other hand, a separate model developed by Vanderbilt School of Medicine researchers suggests that, at current rates, Tennessee will not reach its peak until mid-June, a peak "that could stress the capacity of the state hospital system."
"Any reduction in social distancing must be paired with reliable and speedy testing and contact tracing to keep disease spread under control," the report insisted.
On Monday, the Tennessee governor announced that his stay-at-home order would be extended through April 30, with a "phased reboot" of the economy beginning in May.
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What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)
According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.
What are the symptoms?
The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Or at least two of the following symptoms:
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.
The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.