Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday that the latest models show that the coronavirus surge will occur in mid-April and the number of confirmed cases in the state could be as high as 172,000.
Baker said the latest data shows the number of confirmed cases will range between 47,000 and 172,000, about 0.7% to 2.5% of the state's population. Hospitalizations are expected to peak between April 10 and 20, he said, the much anticipated coronavirus surge.
If the current fatality rate were to hold, the range of infections Baker gave could be expected to lead to between 705 and 2,580 COVID-19 deaths. As of Thursday afternoon, Massachusetts had reported 8,966 confirmed cases and 154 deaths, while more than 5,000 people are officially under quarantine while they're monitored for symptoms. Public health officials reported 32 new deaths Thursday afternoon.
Baker said the reason the range of expected cases is so large is that there is still much that isn't known, including how long this will last.
"This is unprecedented," Baker said. "It's hard to tell where the end is. I think of it as weeks and months and we'll get narrower the farther into it we get."
Though the Massachusetts models are based on information from Wuhan, China, the governor said he expects the fatality rate to be lower here, around 1.5%, due to the fact that the state has lower population density and enacted strict social distancing standards sooner than China. He also noted that Massachusetts has a much lower smoking rate.
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Baker continued to stress the importance of staying at home, social distancing and hand washing.
"If we take this stuff seriously, it is a powerful weapon," he said.
Over the past three days, Massachusetts has seen 98 new COVID-19 deaths, about two-thirds of the total the number of fatalities in the state.
On Wednesday, Baker visited the DCU Center in Worcester, which is being set up as a 250-bed field hospital to help provide additional beds during the coronavirus pandemic. Other similar facilities are also under consideration.
The governor has said the models he's seen show the coronavirus surge is expected to hit the state between April 7 and April 17.
On Tuesday, the governor extended the stay-at-home advisory and non-essential business closure that was set to expire on April 7 until May 4. He has also directed schools to remain closed until May 4.
The 10-person limit on gatherings in the state has been extended as well, following a similar extension by the federal government.
State House News Service contributed to this report.