Fairbanks School model predicts Marion County virus surge next week

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A predictive model developed by the Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI predicts Indianapolis will see its coronavirus patient surge by the end of the month, with the rest of the state to peak by mid-May.

The local model differs from a similar model developed by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington which predicted Indiana would hit its peak late last week and then again earlier this week.

“I think the reason why their model is off is because they’re not accounting for different timings of peaks around the state which we’re doing our best to account for,” said Dr. Brian Dixon of the Fairbanks School. “Our level of hospitalizations in the center part of the state have been flat. In other parts of the state they’re still climbing up.”

Dr. Dixon said his model is drilling deeper into county-by-county data whereas the IHME model is dependent on broader statewide statistics.

“It took a few weeks to get there but I think now we’re very confident in our model and I think the leaders are also confident in what we’re projecting and have told us as much,” said Dr. Dixon, days after he briefed State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box and Marion County Health Director Dr. Virginia Caine. “The other numbers we’re gathering now are around length of stay. That’s one of the parameters of the model that will drive how fast people will be discharged to home and those who are hospitalized, information around predicting mortality.”

The Fairbanks model and the IHME model both predict a fatality total between 800 and 900, though Indiana may be only now accounting for some likely COVID-19 deaths from earlier in the pandemic that weren’t counted as such because of the lack of positive test results.

“We continue to backfill in the mortality statistics and continue to learn more about what the case presentation looks like,” said Dr. Shaun Grannis of the Regenstrief Institute who has closely followed the Fairbanks model, “so that an astute clinician may look at this and say, ‘That looked like it may be a COVID-19 case,’ and I do think that we will continue to see that backfill.”

By mid-day Wednesday the State Health Department reported 436 coronavirus deaths in Indiana with 155 occurring in Marion County.

At the same time there were 8955 positive test cases in the state, 3204 in Marion County.

Experts are watching for signs of the flattening number of positive test cases to mark the peak and gradual decline of the patient surge.

After an Easter weekend lull, state and local positive test results have continued to climb.

“I think as you see the number of new cases go down, or level off I should say, then you will see leveling off of hospitalizations and then the leveling off of mortality from this disease and then over time the numbers will continue to shrink,” said Dr. Dixon.

Governor Eric Holcomb has indicated he will listen to Dr. Box and other medical advisors to determine when he might consider lifting the stay-at-home order that was announced for Hoosiers last month.

When asked if he expected to dine out with his wife on Mother’s Day May 10th, Dr. Grannis said, “If I’m a betting man, I’m going to be celebrating Mother’s Day at our kitchen table with a couple of very nice smoked ribeyes and a backyard grill.”

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