CHICAGO — New modeling from the University of Washington shows COVID-19 cases in Illinois will not be as severe as originally feared, and local hospitals may be able to mostly handle the influx of patients.
University researchers have also lowered their prediction of COVID-related deaths in Illinois to 1,588 down from their previous forecast of 3,629.
The modeling predicts a peak demand on hospital resources will begin to occur on April 11, but researchers no longer forecast a shortage of intensive care or regular hospital beds.
However, they do project the need for more than 600 additional ventilators to help patients breathe.
A spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Public Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the University of Washington’s new COVID forecast or whether their own modeling shows similar reason for optimism.
Gov. JB Pritzker ordered schools closed on March 17 and instituted a stay-at-home order that went into effect March 21. Both measures were an attempt to force social distancing with the hope of slowing the spread of the virus and pushing back the strain on hospital resources before they could be supplemented.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA have worked with local authorities to add several thousand additional hospital beds at alternate care facilities including McCormick Place and several previously closed hospital facilities in the suburbs.
On Tuesday, Illinois health officials released new numbers on intensive care bed capacity. They showed hospitals in Chicago’s northern suburbs are currently experiencing the most strain with only 25 ICU beds available, which represents 16.7% of the north suburban region’s capacity. Southwest suburban hospital facilities reported 77 available ICU beds or 20.7% of capacity. Hospitals in Chicago reported having 191 available ICU beds or 24.7% of their capacity as of Tuesday.
Illinois officials have been hesitant to share their own predictions for the peak of the outbreak other than to say it’ll likely happen in mid-to-late April. They emphasize the importance of continuing social distancing well past the peak of the outbreak to avoid a resurgence of the virus.
On Tuesday, Illinois reported its single deadliest day in the ongoing battle with 73 additional COVID-related deaths bringing Illinois’ total fatalities to 380.
“There are so many tragedies here,” Gov. Pritzker told reporters. “Let these numbers today be a reminder that this pandemic is deadly serious, so stay at home.”
It’s worth noting not every model agrees with the University of Washington forecast, some have said its estimates are too low. However, it is one of the models used by the White House to anticipate health care needs, according to the Washington Post.