The latest COVID-19 metrics from the University of Washington are trending in a favorable direction for the state of Florida.
The University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) has been a key resource throughout the Coronavirus crisis. Its data has been used to track state-by-state data on number of hospital beds, ICU beds and invasive ventilators available and in use. Both state and government officials have relied on its projections as they strive to "flatten the curve" and ensure adequate life saving services are available to residents.
Models are updated several times per week, taking into account the latest data on hospital admissions and fatalities. This data is used to project when the virus will hit its peak in each state, and where that peak stands in relation to the number of beds and ventilators available.
The news has been steadily improving for the state of Florida.
In numbers dated April 8, 2020, the IHME model projected that Florida would suffer a total of 4,357 COVID-19 deaths by August 4, 2020. By April 10, the anticipated death toll was downgraded to 3,999 by August 4.
Both of these models showed that Florida was still about two weeks away from reaching its peak daily death toll and resource utilization in early May.
The numbers released today tell a very different story. IHME is now projecting that Florida will suffer only 1,363 deaths as a result of the COVID-19 virus, down 66% from the prior estimate. They further project that Florida has already surpassed its peak resource utilization. That occurred 3 days ago, on April 14, when 1,535 of its 20,184 statewide hospital beds were in use and 405 of 1,695 ICU beds.
IHME COVID-19 Projections (April 17, 2020)
The report concludes that Florida may begin to relax social distancing as early as June 1, 2020, assuming they continue with testing, contact tracing, isolation and limiting of gathering size.
These numbers are only projections and do contain a margin of error.
Today Governor Ron DeSantis announced that some Florida beaches and parks had been given approval to reopen. Limited operating hours and strict social distancing measures were to be observed.
DeSantis had also recently stated that he would work with theme park officials to create a sensible plan for resuming operations.
These moves fly in opposition to comments made earlier this week by Florida Surgeon General Scott A. Rivkees, who suggested that extreme social distancing may be necessary until a COVID-19 vaccine is produced. Creation, testing and wide release of such a vaccine could take 18 months.
Orange and Osceola Counties in central Florida both issued their own stay at home orders in late March. DeSantis later imposed a statewide restriction which runs through April 30. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings claims his staff is working on plans to safely reopen businesses after the orders are lifted.
California IHME numbers are similarly encouraging, projecting peak resource utiliziation was also achieved on April 14 and that social distancing may be relaxed as soon as May 18. However, California officials have voiced greater reservations about permitting large gatherings in the summer of 2020.