• HPA Intern

Houston COVID-19 Predicted Statistics

By: Huan Le for Health Policy Advocates, LLC

March 16, 2020

Based on an Imperial College London study[1], Houston may see more than 13,000 fatalities over the course of its COVID-19 epidemic. Unless vaccines against the virus are introduced in weeks or medications lower the severity, the city’s best hope is to suppress the infection rate to allow the its healthcare system to cope—“flattening the curve.”

School closures will be effective in the short run, but the more important suppressive measures are case isolation, household quarantine, and social distancing.

Imperial College London’s analysis* of COVID hospitalizations, ICU use and fatalities are scary. Although their study focused on Great Britain, it also looked at the US—which would have similar outcomes to Great Britain. Here are some of the scarier findings:

  • “For an uncontrolled epidemic, we predict critical care bed capacity would be exceeded as early as the second week in April.”

  • The first peak of the outbreak will be the summer—if we can flatten the curve.

  • If uncontrolled, at peak, there will be more 30 patients who need an ICU bed for each available ICU bed.

  • The paper recommends 5 months of case isolation, household quarantine, and social distancing (“Recommended Suppression”) in order to flatten the curve so that there are enough ICU beds.

  • School closures lasting 5 months (without the Recommended Suppression) lead to second outbreak that could be as extreme as if no suppressions were taken

  • A second outbreak is likely to occur in the Winter once suppression measures are lifted.

  • 81% of population will be infected over the course of the epidemic

These conclusions are extrapolated from data points coming from China, Italy, and other countries. Here are the bits of good news:

  • Fatality Rates in the US will likely be lower than 1.0% of those infected

  • Suppression strategies may be enough to lower the number of cases needing critical care so that ICU’s are not too overwhelmed.

  • Houstonians are already taking action (self-quarantine, social distancing, etc) to flatten the curve.

Here are the results of Imperial College London analysis as applied to Houston (not its metro areas) if/when the COVID-19 epidemic infects 81% of the population. Without a vaccine, it seems reasonable that the only way to stop the pandemic is herd immunity.

The chart uses the Imperial College London assumption that 81% of the Houston population gets infected and two-thirds of those infected have symptoms.

You may also get a .pdf of this article here.

[1] Neil M Ferguson et al “Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID19 mortality and healthcare demand.” March 16, 2020. https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf.

[2] Based on estimate of 34.7 ICU beds per 100,000 population. See https://www.sccm.org/Blog/March-2020/United-States-Resource-Availability-for-COVID-19

[3] https://www.houstontx.gov/abouthouston/health.html

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