COLUMBUS, Ohio (WYSX/WTTE) — A day after announcing that Ohio might see as many as 10,000 daily new cases of COVID-19 within weeks, Ohio's health director insisted that current pandemic occurrences in New York, Louisiana and elsewhere prove the point.
"You don't have to trust the models to see what is happening," said Dr. Amy Acton at a Saturday news briefing. "If there's anyone out there who thinks that New York, Louisiana, New Jersey, or what's happening in Michigan is not going to happen across the border in this state...I don't know what more to say. This is what we expect from an infectious disease."
Dr. Acton responded to a reporter's question after news reports about her Friday pronouncements sent shock waves throughout Ohio. Acton had previously announced Thursday that computer models drawn up by Ohio State University epidemiologists showed the state would identify 6,000 to 8,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 coronavirus each day, sometime in mid-April.
By Friday afternoon, she had upped the prediction to 10,000 per day.
"There is no healthcare system in the world that could take on this virus, as it was built," Acton had said Friday after announcing the newly modeled forecast.
Dr. Acton pointed to New York as one example of how the virus spreads. The Empire State was slightly behind Ohio in the early going, when it comes to enacting measures like social distancing or the limiting of large gatherings. This week, New York saw a dramatic rise in case numbers, culminating in a Friday-to-Saturday confirmed case increase of almost 8,000.
New York is leading the nation in coronavirus cases with more than 52,000 confirmed by Saturday afternoon, and also has a much larger urban-centralized population than Ohio.
On Saturday, asked where the numbers came from and whether they were based on previously known rates of spread elsewhere, Dr. Acton briefly explained how OSU's computer model works to make projections based on available data.
"The numbers are a range. As the model gets better data fed into it, the closer and closer it gets. It was already predicting how many cases we would have today," Dr. Acton said.
She also said the model works against a natural human tendency, to under-predict the rate of spread or the climbing amount of cases.
"What it is doing is looking at the effectiveness of our social measures...staying home and not spreading. But that lags," she said. "The effectiveness of what we're doing now will show up in our data two weeks from now.
"And then there is 'how much we stop spreading it,'" she continued. "Susceptible people, infected people, and recovered people — all of that data is lagging. So our estimates many times are under-estimates, but the model tries to take that into account...(and) sort of what we think, based on what we're testing."
The expected surge in cases may outpace Ohio's hospital bed capacity by three times the current amount of available beds. On Saturday, three major hospital systems in Columbus announced they would open a jointly-operated "surge hospital" at the Greater Columbus Convention Center to help handle expected overflow patients in April and May.