(The Center Square) – A Seattle institute forecast Monday that Florida’s COVID-19 outbreak won’t peak until early May and will linger into summer, killing more than 6,700 state residents.
The Institute for Health Metrics & Evaluation (IHME), an independent health research center at the University of Washington, said Monday its state-by-state coronavirus projection model indicates that, by May 3, as many as 174 Floridians could be dying daily from COVID-19.
By summer’s end, according to IHME’s model, up to 82,141 Americans could die from the coronavirus disease, including 6,766 Floridians, the second most in the nation behind the 15,546 deaths IHME forecasts in New York, where the COVID-19 outbreak is projected to peak by April 10.
Citing the steady, but relatively slow – until this weekend – build-up of COVID-19 cases in Florida, IHME’s model also forecasts the state’s health-care system won’t be totally overwhelmed and won’t run out of hospital beds, although intensive care unit (ICU) beds may be unavailable when the virus peaks.
According to the modeling, Florida will need about 17,000 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients in early May, including 2,500 ICU beds. Florida should have about 20,000 hospital beds available, but probably only 1,700 ICU beds, IHME projects.
Nationally, the pandemic is projected to peak April 15, according to IHME. Around then, the institute’s model projects 2,271 Americans could die every day from COVID-19.
The national peak is largely influenced by New York, according to IHME, which could see a statewide death rate of about 798 a day, peaking around April 10.
Just as that national peak begins to crest, COVID-19 cases escalate in Florida, IHME forecasts, although that appears to already be happening with 523 new positive COVID-19 cases reported Monday by the Florida Department of Health on its COVID-19 dashboard, the largest single day increase thus far.
IHME said it publicly posted its projections to help hospitals and public health officials prepare for peak demands.
The projections “are urgently needed given that peak volumes are estimated to be only three weeks away” in many areas the country, but not all, IHME Director Dr. Christopher J.L. Murray said.
IHME's 82,000 national death toll forecast is lower than numbers projected by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said Sunday he hopes the pandemic would kill no more than “100,000 to 200,000” Americans.
IHME’s projections come with a big fly in the ointment when it comes to Florida since its forecast assumes all states implement statewide stay-at-home orders, which Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has steadfastly refused to do.
DeSantis has resisted calls by Democrats and many public health officials to order a blanket shutdown. A Change.org petition to shut down Florida, started a week ago, has garnered more than 367,000 petitions.
The governor insists a targeted approach is better-suited to containing geographically isolated outbreaks. He has closed bars, gyms, parks and south Florida beaches; limited restaurants to take-out; ordered airport arrivals from New York and other "hot spots" to remain in self-isolation for two weeks; and has authorized roadblocks on I-95 at the Georgia-Florida state line to catalogue New Yorkers, and on I-20 west of Pensacola, to document Louisiana residents to ensure they’re quarantined.
But DeSantis has left stay-at-home orders to local governments, which has not worked, Santa Rosa Beach attorney Daniel Uhlfelder claims in a lawsuit, calling DeSantis’ policies a “slow-paced death march.”
The lawsuit demands DeSantis impose a statewide safer-at-home ban on gatherings of groups of 10 or more and close all state’s beaches.