AUGUSTA – A variation of only 10 percent in how well Mainers practice social distance can mean the difference between several hundred lives lost due to the corona virus and 1,000 more deaths.
That is the gloomy prospect facing state epidemiologists, whose daily work is to ensure that there are enough hospital beds, ventilators and protective equipment to handle one of the scenarios – or completely different – when a surge in anticipated COVID-19 patients happened in Maine.
“We didn’t know what we would be like,” Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “What I know is that no matter we will be one of these, we have a plan.”
Nirav and his two planning team members met or talked every day to discuss what the latest model said about the possible arrival of the Maine disease caused by the COVID-19 virus caused by coronavirus. Various models are basically inaccurate and uncertain. And the results, broad estimates, which Shah shared with a group of journalists including the Portland Press Herald on Monday, illustrate the challenge of predicting the rapid course of new infectious diseases before scientists certainly know how they are spreading in a modern, mobile society.
For example, the worst case scenario shows that Maine can see up to 12,000 new COVID-19 cases per day at the peak of the outbreak if Mainer is only able to reduce the rate of disease transmission by 40 percent.
But that number will drop to 3,000 new cases at its peak if Maine is able to reduce transmission rates by up to 70 percent – and potentially be a single digit if aggressive control efforts are even more successful.
Likewise, the various models used by Shah and his team suggest Maine could experience anywhere from around 100 deaths to more than 1,000 by the end of this year – again, all depends on the success of efforts to reduce transmission or the “contact level” at which the virus jump from person to person.
“The course of the epidemic, basically, in Maine will depend on how much public health intervention reduces contact rates,” Shah said. “Viruses will not change. . . so the only other lever we have is a social mechanism. In some cases it could be a vaccine, or it could be a drug. But now, what we get is social distance. “
The widely seen model developed by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, for example, estimates that Maine could see 115 deaths in August. The model combines the latest data on the spread of COVID-19 and mortality rates in China and several other countries with local restrictions imposed by the state, such as school closures and mandatory “home stay” orders.
Using the weather analogy for various models, Shah compared the University of Washington model by consulting an almanac to get a picture of the weather going to be like in Maine on, say, July 17th.
Two other models used by Shah and his team – produced by Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and Imperial College of London – will be more similar to using supercomputers to analyze complex meteorological data to produce weather predictions.
The Johns Hopkins model, meanwhile, estimates that Maine can see between 200 and 300 deaths if the transmission rate is reduced by 70 percent but more than 1,000 deaths if the “contact rate” is only reduced by 60 percent.
Shah said his team used “a combination of models that used different techniques – each with strengths and limitations” to create their planning scenarios.
All of this is directed to ensure Maine has enough beds in intensive care units, ventilators, respiratory therapists, and “personal protective equipment” to compensate for this disease, regardless of which scenario is played.
“The reason we do modeling is not to try to come up with some numbers, even though it’s part of it,” Shah said. “The real reason we do this is to create a planning scenario. So, by design, we didn’t look for answers. We are looking for the widest range of answers that we believe can be scientifically maintained, so that we can plan accordingly. “
Shah was reluctant – even refused – to give estimates of illness and death in Maine even when public health officials and governors in other states did. Instead, he used his daily briefing to discuss the latest number of cases in Maine and, last week, the death toll continued to grow while providing updates on testing, PPE acquisition and the availability of IC beds and ventilators.
This story will be updated.
to request modification Contact us at Here or [email protected]