The state is scrambling to get health care workers in Massachusetts the equipment they need to save lives – readying for a surge in patients that Gov. Charlie Baker said he expects to come in the next two or three weeks.
"If we get the 1,000 ventilators the feds are promising, that will make a big difference," Baker said Monday.
Pressure to increase hospital capacity and acquire live-saving medical equipment is mounting as researchers across the country model scenarios for the spread of the novel coronavirus.
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Health officials in Massachusetts expect they'll need between 1,000 and 1,400 additional ventilators to cope with a surge of patients, and they predict that wave could come between April 7 and April 17, Baker said.
That timeline matches a prediction from researchers at the University of Washington, who concluded the spread of the virus is likely to peak in the Bay State around April 14. In a paper produced with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the university's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation modeled when all 50 states will see a surge in cases.
|State||Estimated peak||Beds needed||Beds available||Bed shortage||Deaths projected through Aug. 4, 2020|
|New Hampshire||April 30||1,127||1,018||109||351|
|Rhode Island||April 19||975||795||180||306|
Source: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington
That model incorporates measures the states have already taken to slow new infections, such as closing schools and non-essential businesses.
It predicts hospitals here would need around 2,700 more beds to handle an expected surge of patients during the peak, during which time as many as 80 people could die each day.
And it projects more than 1,700 people people in Massachusetts could die by early August.
Those grim predictions align with new numbers floated over the weekend by officials from the White House. Nationwide, the death toll could surpass 100,000, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday.
"I think that number is probably optimistic," said Samuel Scarpino, an assistant professor at Northeastern University who studies networks and complex systems, including the spread of infectious diseases.
Scarpino told the NBC10 Boston Investigators Monday that modeling by his group shows the number of deaths in the United States could be much higher — perhaps as high as 1 million fatalities.
Scarpino, whose group is helping to inform state leaders about the pandemic, said he believes it's inevitable that hospitals in Massachusetts will be overwhelmed during the coming surge. But innovations happening now, such as adapting ventilators for multiple patients, can help save lives.
Residents can also help lessen the burden on hospitals by staying at home, he said.
"We are in a very, very serious situation and we need to be moving decisively," he said.
Scarpino said it's impossible to tell when the pandemic might subside, but the nation might be able to relax some of the widespread social distancing measures now in effect by the summer, he said.
"Every transmission event that you prevent from happening will down the line lead to tens or hundreds of other cases that don't happen," he said.
Editor's note: This story was updated on March 31, 2020 to correct the projections for hospital capacity and deaths in the state of Maine.