Did Delaware "flatten the curve?"
June 9, 2020
"Flatten the curve" – the phrase has become an imbedded part of the American lexicon. Delawareans were asked to help "flatten the curve" in mid-March.
Governor Carney’s executive orders originally called for a 2-week period of distancing as well as the formal closure of public gathering places and private businesses. We are now 3 months into our 2-week quarantine.
The premise was simple – by limiting the spread of SARS-Cov-2, we could avoid flooding hospitals with cases and ensure that there were enough intensive care units available to treat patients with life threatening symptoms brought about by the illness.
Implicitly, we all knew that people were going to continue to get sick and that most of us would eventually contract COVID at some point in time, either through contact or ideally a vaccine.
The state of Delaware has 2,072 hospital beds, 395 ICU beds, and an additional 55 temporary ICU units that were setup to assist with the COVID outbreak.
In April, the state peaked at 337 hospitalizations attributed to COVID that number now stands at 103. The number of COVID occupied beds is currently falling by 4-5 units per day.
If we were to use some of the worst-case scenario figures found in Italy, approximately 15% of all admitted COVID cases end up in ICU. At any point in time, there could have been 60 or so COVID patients in intensive care (ICU occupation data was not readily available via any Delaware health or government outlet).
In short, if the intent of the quarantine was to flatten the curve, we have accomplished that goal.
The state’s hospitals are nearly empty, currently running at a 15% total occupancy rate. Beebe Healthcare announced this week that they were planning to begin scheduling elective procedures – supporting the notion that our hospital system in not being over-run by COVID.
Recent tests in Italy indicate that the COVID virus has lost much of its potency and that viral loads are now infinitesimally small. Neil Ferguson the epidemiologist that predicted bleak outcomes helped usher in many of the lockdowns we have seen around the globe admitted the quarantines might have been overkill.
Sweden, did not implement any mandatory controls on its citizens. Instead, the country encouraged citizens to practice hood personal hygiene and to keep away from the elderly or others with preexisting conditions.
Sweden has reached the same end but without dismantling its economy. Instead, the country’s GDP grew and still had fewer COVID related deaths per million than the United Kingdom. Sweden chose to abide by its governing documents and trusted that responsible citizens would take proper precautions. In short, personal responsibility worked.
Yet much of our economy lies dormant. Over 100,000 people have filed for unemployment in Delaware and over 66,000 are currently receiving unemployment benefits. A large percentage of those who have filed, have not received any of their unemployment benefits to date and probably will not see them for weeks to come.
The official unemployment rate is over 14% and is likely to increase to the worst levels in history. This week, some establishments were allowed to open at 30% of capacity and they will be allowed to fill to 60% of capacity starting June 15th.
This is not good enough and for many small businesses, the operating costs make functioning at that low of a capacity rate more unprofitable than remaining closed. As mortgage payments, rent and other bills pile up, we sit back and watch good hardworking people struggle.
There have been 9,498 confirmed tested cases of Corona in Delaware. Most agree that the number of actual cases is significantly higher. Data from a NCCo study estimated that there were 29 times the number of COVID infection than officially recorded. Meaning the state may have had as over 260,000 infections to date.
By some estimates, if there were no restrictions on movement and all businesses were opened starting today, the state would reach peak infection within a few weeks with a max level of about 260,000-300,000 cases existing concurrently.
If we assume that hospitalization rates and intensive care rates continue at similar levels to what we have seen, we would have about 250 severe cases that require ICU treatment. This is still well under the number of units available.
Whether we like it or not, COVID is with us for the foreseeable future and people will continue to get sick. As a populace, we must learn to live with COVID much like we have learned to live with the strains of influenza that evolved from the 1918 pandemic that swept the globe.
We have to move now or face the reality of a prolonged economic depression. Homes will be lost, families will be broken and depression, addiction and waves of unintended but easily foreseen consequences will set in.