PORTLAND, Ore. — “The storm is coming,” Gov. Kate Brown said over the weekend in a plea for Oregonians to stay home to help prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus.
Patients with the virus are beginning to hit Oregon hospitals in meaningful numbers, and public-health officials worry that the inevitable surge soon will overwhelm the state medical system’s ability to care for those suffering from Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the runaway virus.
The new website Covid Act Now -- created by data scientists, including a former Google Cloud executive, “in partnership with epidemiologists, public health officials and political leaders” -- offers a visualization of what Oregon could be facing very soon. And it’s not encouraging.
Take a look at the graph above -- and then go to the website and check out the particulars for Oregon and other states. You also can dig into the model itself.
Even with “social distancing” orders in place since last week -- that is, people being asked to mostly stay home except for weekly trips to the grocery store and necessary outings like doctor appointments -- the unofficial website sees Covid-19 patients swamping Oregon hospital capacity by the middle of April. That’s the orange/brown wave on the graph, with the black line being the available hospital beds. And if Oregonians ignore public-health officials’ calls for them to stay on their couches? That would be the red spike on the graph.
The “point of no return for intervention to prevent hospital overload,” the model concludes, is nigh: March 24 to March 29.
Another model, one by Oregon Health & Science University, reached a somewhat similar conclusion to Covid Act Now’s, showing a shortage of 1,400 hospital beds in Oregon by April 16.
Dave Northfield, the director of communications at the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, said in an email that “OAHHS is not doing its own modeling” and that its hospitals are “in close daily contact” with the Oregon Health Authority.
To be sure, data models offer at best educated guesswork. The Covid Act Now site clearly states: “This model is intended to help make fast decisions, not predict the future.”
Covid Act Now lays out the model’s assumptions in a note, pointing out that the coronavirus is “a new disease. Variables will change.”
On Monday, Gov. Brown issued a more-restrictive stay-at-home order that could end up bending the model’s projected curves. The order closes additional businesses across the state and could lead to jail time for people who violate it.
This post has been updated.
-- Douglas Perry
This article was originally published by The Oregonian/OregonLive, one of more than a dozen news organizations throughout the state sharing their coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak to help inform Oregonians about this evolving health issue.