So far, so good, is the assessment from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) analytics team that partnered with Hartford HealthCare (HHC) to track and predict the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Besides being “remarkably accurate” in pinpointing the peak of infection activity thus far, Dr. Dimitris Bertsimas, the dean of analytics at MIT, said he believes there will not be a “significant second wave” of the virus in Connecticut this summer as long as people continue to be responsible with social distancing.
“Assuming we have reasonable measures in place and do not completely open the state, we will still see an increase but not a lot,” Dr. Bertsimas said May 28 in the daily HHC media briefing.
His analytics correctly predicted the peak of the infection activity locally to be late April. He also predicted there would be 1.4 million cases in the United States at this point. The number is 1.5 million. Last month, the model showed COVID-related deaths in Connecticut could reach 6,000 by mid-June. As of early in the May 29, the state reported 3,826 deaths.
Dr. Bertsimas’ team created the epidemiological case prediction tool DELPHI (find it at here) to chart and predict the progression of COVID-19 across the world. It can forecast the number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
“We can calculate for mortality and infection,” he said. “When a patient arrives at the hospital COVID positive, it uses personal information, looks at lab tests and comorbidities to determine risk.”
This knowledge, he said, would help clinical staff prioritize ICU space if there was a surge in patients.
Predictions, Dr. Bertsimas said, also consider policies and human compliance with such social guidelines as mask wearing and maintaining a six-foot distance from others. Some states – he named Texas – have opened early and relaxed guidelines. As a result, he predicts brutal second waves of the disease this fall.
“The threat still exists and it’s significant,” he said. “This disease is exponentially increasing. If states are opened prematurely, the transmission rate will significantly increase.”
Dr. Ajay Kumar, HHC’s chief clinical officer, added that the second wave is likely to coincide with the onset of flu season. It is important, he noted, that healthcare systems and providers sustain policies put into place during the pandemic to sustain the influx of patients from the two illnesses.
“We need to prepare for fall and winter,” Dr. Kumar said.
The measures he mentioned include:
- Expanded testing for COVID-19.
- Expanded testing for antibodies created in people who have had COVID-19 to understand who will not be spreading the disease and help develop “herd immunity” in the population.
- Maintained forward triage structure that separates patients suspected of having COVID-19 from other patients in HHC hospital emergency rooms.
- Continued isolation.
- Increased contact tracing to follow potential infections once a person has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
“We share a deep mutual commitment to helping the world so people can live their lives,” he said.
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