Is Ohio experiencing the coronavirus ‘peak’ right now? Here’s the data

Ohio may be experiencing the peak in the spread of coronavirus, according to some scientific models, though projections are constantly being revised and subject to change.

One commonly cited model projects today, April 14, as the peak of the pandemic's strain on the hospital system and April 13 as the peak in new deaths.

The latest projection from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimates the virus will lead to the need for 731 hospital beds today, including 181 intensive care beds. This is well below the 14,290 beds and 1,238 ICU beds available statewide, the model says.

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It predicted the number of deaths per day would peak at 27 on April 13.

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Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said Monday that there were 898 Ohioans hospitalized that day because of COVID-19. And state officials said that 50 new deaths were reported in the 24 hours period before Tuesday afternoon. A total of 324 people have died statewide. 

The state's new case and death numbers are based on when deaths are reported to the state, not when they occurred. Looking at data released Wednesday by the Ohio Department of Health on when deaths and new cases occurred, new cases per day peaked at 306 on April 3 and deaths peaked at 26 on April 5. These numbers are incomplete, however, because reporting delays mean some new cases and deaths haven't been reported yet.

Acton relies on a different model for her projections, one assembled by epidemiologists at the Infectious Diseases Institute at the Ohio State University. That model is more complex and unique to Ohio, taking into account regional demographics and hospital capacities.

That model predicts a peak of new cases daily on April 19 with 1,607 new cases that day. 

As of today, the five-day average of reported cases per day is 354 cases, though that is limited by a lack of testing capacity.

Initial estimates out of OSU foretold up to 62,000 new cases a day by March 22 unless action was taken, such as required social distancing, to lower the number to 10,000 or risk completely overwhelming the state’s hospitals.

Acton and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine say the new projections and relatively low number of new cases can be attributed to Ohioans adhering to stay at home orders and social distancing guidelines.

OSU researchers put out a statement last week explaining why their projections were reduced significantly from previous numbers. Initial data showed exponential growth in the spread of the virus.

OSU released this description of its methodology:

 

“Our initial model predictions based on these data anticipated a surge of cases in mid-April, enough to severely strain Ohio’s healthcare system,” says a statement on the university’s website.

But the actual data showed a leveling off on March 17, which caused them to revise their predictions.

“The sudden change in the case curve from exponential to near-linear growth is not typical of epidemics — a smoother, more gradual change is usually observed,” researchers wrote. “Of course, the state’s response to COVID-19 has not been typical, either.”

The change in course corresponds to the same time period DeWine banned large gatherings, and closed schools, bars and restaurants.

Coronavirus: 1,600 new cases per day predicted at state’s peak, Acton says

While the data doesn’t prove social distancing is responsible for the dramatic change in projections, researchers wrote “The simplest explanation ... is that changes in behavior driven by social distancing measures have shifted the epidemic from a rapidly growing one with the potential to overwhelm the healthcare system, to a much gentler curve that may be close to or already at its peak.”

But if state restrictions are responsible for flattening the curve more than anticipated, lifting those restrictions could change the projections and lead to another increase, the researchers note.