Update: Is your state flattening the COVID-19 curve? Here’s the latest data

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April 21, 2020


 
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Over the past five days, mortality estimates in some states have changed dramatically. (AdobeStock)

This story was updated at 7pm on April 21, 2020.

This week New York hit a high plateau of COVID-19 deaths, as other Northeast states are now weathering their expected peak number of coronavirus cases.

According to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), the global go-to source for reliable modeling of the COVID-19 virus’ path, New York’s coronavirus hospitalizations aren’t growing—but neither are they declining with any rapidity. The IHME model predicts nearly 24,000 deaths caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus in New York State by June 1, 2020. As of Monday, April 20, state officials had reported 14,346 deaths.

Nationwide, the latest IHME model reduced the expected number of COVID-19 deaths to just over 66,000. That figure had been 93,000 as of early April. The lower mortality estimate is the result of many states implementing stay-at-home orders.

It’s helpful to keep in mind that the IHME projections are just that—projections. They’re based on the best available data at a certain point in time. The projections themselves may influence leaders to make policy decisions, and individuals to make choices, that alter the actual outcome.

“All models are just models,” Dr. Anthony Fauci has said. “When you get new data, you change them.”

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Social distancing through May?

The national mortality estimate also assumes that full social distancing measures will remain in place nationwide through the end of May. That may come as a bit of a shock to many Americans who currently expect the nation’s radical shutdown to ease at the end of April.

In the West Coast states that saw the earliest outbreaks—California, Washington, and Oregon—quick action by state government leaders and early shutdown orders seem to be working. On April 1, the IHME model predicted 1,545 total COVID-19 deaths in Washington state by June 1. But only five days later, on April 6, the same model reduced that mortality estimate to 977. That’s a savings, in theory, of 568 lives. By April 21, the Washington state total mortality estimate had been reduced even further, to 779.

Keeping the curve under the line

The phrase flattening the curve means taking measures to make sure the number of hospitalized patients (the bell curve) remains below the graph line representing the number of available hospital beds. (It can also be a measure of ICU beds, or ventilators.) The importance of flattening the curve is illustrated by New York State, which is suffering such tragically high mortality because the number of patients is overwhelming the state’s medical capacity, as shown in this IHME graph of patients plotted against available beds:

New York State: COVID-19 patients and hospital bed capacity

New York’s patient count (the dash line) broke through the state’s 13,000 bed capacity in late March. (Chart via IHME, University of Washington)

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom instituted the nation’s first statewide stay-at-home order on March 19. That has helped keep the state’s COVID-19 outbreak from overwhelming the state’s hospital bed capacity of 26,000.

California: COVID-19 patients and hospital bed capacity

California’s patient count remains relatively low, and doesn’t even approach the state’s 26,600 bed capacity. (Chart via IHME, University of Washington)

Governors leading where the White House won’t

With the federal government doing little to prepare or respond to the pandemic, state leaders have had to step up and lead. States where that happened early—like California and Ohio—are seeing positive results. Both states experienced early and dramatic shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, put in place by their governors. The IHME model now lists them among the states with the lowest projected per-capita mortality rate, around four to six deaths per 100,000 residents.

By contrast, Georgia, whose governor delayed the implementation of stay-at-home orders, are now projected to suffer around 18 deaths per 100,000 residents.

In the Northeast, the virus arrived too early and the stay-at-home orders came too late. New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island are expected to suffer among the worst casualty rates, according to the IHME model.

To put that in perspective: New York has half the population of California, but is projected to record 13 times the number of COVID-19 mortalities as the Golden State.

The IHME site is updated every three days, and is always worth checking out here. In the meantime, we’ve gathered a simplified table, below, with the IHME data as of April 21, 2020.

State Apex of
COVID-19 cases
(April 21 projection)
Total deaths
by June 1
(April 1 projection)
Total deaths
by June 1
(April 21 projection)
Total deaths per
100,000 residents
(April 1 projection)
Total deaths per
100,000 residents
(April 21 projection)
Alabama April 22 1,137 290 23.2 5.9
Alaska April 22 145 17 19.7 2.4
Arizona April 22 1,569 480 21.5 6.6
Arkansas April 28 729 131 24.3 4.4
California April 13 4,997 1,743 12.6 4.4
Colorado April 11 1,683 649 12.3 11.4
Connecticut April 21 414 2,884 11.5 80.1
Delaware April 21 236 136 24.4 13.6
District of Columbia April 21 384 213 54.9 30.4
Florida April 12 5,308 1,537 24.7 7.1
Georgia April 21 2,639 1,981 24.9 18.7
Hawaii April 22 351 26 24.7 1.9
Idaho April 10 442 61 25.3 3.4
Illinois April 13 2,326 2,093 18.3 16.5
Indiana April 22 906 931 13.5 13.9
Iowa May 5 759 442 23.7 14.2
Kansas April 20 684 273 23.6 9.4
Kentucky April 24 936 466 20.8 10.4
Louisiana April 13 1,978 1,704 42.4 37.0
Maine April 16 360 53 26.9 4.1
Maryland April 19 1,679 1,112 15.2 18.5
Massachusetts April 19 1,507 3,898 21.8 56.5
Michigan April 12 3,007 3,361 30.1 33.6
Minnesota April 18 1,039 301 3.5 5.4
Mississippi April 24 1,223 399 40.8 13.3
Missouri April 12 1,193 385 5.9 6.3
Montana March 30 258 14 25.8 1.3
Nebraska May 9 413 245 21.4 12.9
Nevada April 7 506 240 16.9 7.7
New Hampshire April 21 329 70 24.3 5.4
New Jersey April 14 1,844 7,116 20.7 80.0
New Mexico April 18 493 105 23.5 5.0
New York April 9 15,788 23,741 81.0 121.7
North Carolina April 15 2,446 310 23.3 3.0
North Dakota May 12 158 277 20.8 34.6
Ohio April 15 1,671 771 14.3 6.6
Oklahoma April 22 1,100 306 27.5 7.8
Oregon April 12 513 120 12.2 2.8
Pennsylvania April 18 1,574 2,323 12.3 18.1
Rhode Island April 25 254 578 24.0 57.8
South Carolina April 10 1,028 217 20.1 4.2
South Dakota May 12 191 98 21.6 10.9
Tennessee April 4 4,984 235 73.3 3.5
Texas April 22 5,768 1,166 19.9 4.0
Utah April 28 550 223 17.4 7.0
Vermont April 13 69 43 11.0 7.2
Virginia April 23 1,114 771 13.1 9.1
Washington April 5 1,545 779 20.3 10.25
West Virginia April 17 466 35 25.9 1.9
Wisconsin April 11 926 340 16.0 5.9
Wyoming April 30 134 243 22.3 40.5


 
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Bruce Barcott

Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.