A study published on March 26 and updated on March 30, estimates hospital utilization rates and deaths due to COVID-19 for each day in the next four months for each state in the nation.

The estimates were prepared to help inform the development and implementation of strategies to mitigate the potential need for hospital beds to care for patients with COVID-19, which the study projects will peak within three weeks. The strategies may include reducing non-COVID-19 demand for services and temporarily increasing system capacity.

The study, “Forecasting COVID-19 impact on hospital bed-days, ICU-days, ventilator days and deaths by US state in the next 4 months,” was conducted by a team with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation led by Christopher JL Murray, the author of the study. It was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the State of Washington.

Estimates for Illinois

For Illinois, the Study notes that Governor J.B. Pritzker entered an order on March 17 that closed educational institutions, and that he entered a Stay-at-Home order on March 21.

The Study’s “projections assume the continuation of strong social distancing measures and other protective measures.”

In its analysis of Illinois, the Study predicts that there will not be a shortage of general hospital beds in Illinois through August 1, but that there will be a shortage of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds between April 7 and April 19.

The study bases these estimates on total bed capacity and total estimated bed need due to COVID-19 on an overall basis in the State, and does not break down the estimates, for example, by bed capacity and bed need by specific areas of the State. In practice, excess hospital beds in one region of the State, may not help to cover shortages in another region.

The study also acknowledges there is a wide range of potential error in the estimates. It estimates that the need for ICU beds will peak in Illinois on April 18, with a need for 1,208 ICU beds. The study provides, though, the need may be as low as 424 beds and as high as 2,073 beds on that date. The number of ICU beds available in the State, according to the study is 1,131.

Estimated Deaths in Illinois

The study projects that there will be a total of 2,326 deaths in Illinois.

The number of deaths per day in Illinois is projected to peak at 88 deaths on April 15 and remain at that level until April 19, after which the number of deaths will decline each day until the study projects there will be no deaths on May 23. The study projects there will be no deaths from May 23 through Aug. 1.

Again, the study indicates a wide range of potential error. On April 15, the study indicates the number of deaths could be as low as 41 and as high as 151.

The Methodology

The authors say, “This study used data on confirmed COVID-19 deaths by day from WHO websites and local and national governments; data on hospital capacity and utilization for US states; and observed COVID-19 utilization data from select locations to develop a statistical model forecasting deaths and hospital utilization against capacity by state for the US over the next 4 months.”

The Study also cautions, “The estimated excess demand on hospital systems is predicated on the enactment of social distancing measures in all states that have not done so already within the next week and maintenance of these measures throughout the epidemic, emphasizing the importance of implementing, enforcing, and maintaining these measures to mitigate hospital system overload and prevent deaths.”

The Study does not assess what will happen if Governor Pritzker’s order closing schools is vacated or if the Stay-at-Home order is vacated or relaxed.

Some studies predict that if restrictions imposed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are removed or relaxed, that there will be a resurgence of the epidemic.

There are obviously many unknown variables, including whether restrictions will be removed, what will happen if they are, whether extensive testing will be available, whether and when health care workers will have the protective gear they need, whether more incubators become available and whether trained staff will be available to operate them, whether drugs will be found or developed to treat patients who have COCID-19, and whether and when a vaccine will become available.

To access the projections for Illinois click here.