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Projecting The Impact Of Coronavirus: A Conversation With Dr. Ali Mokdad

Dr. Ali Mokdad. Image; Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Matthew Peddie
Dr. Ali Mokdad. Image; Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Coronavirus cases are expected to peak in Florida just under two weeks from now. That’s according to a projection from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle. Washington State is where coronavirus first took hold in the US. 

90.7 Health Reporter Abe Aboraya spoke with Dr. Ali Mokdad, professor and chief strategy officer of population health with IHME. 

They talked about the rationale behind the numbers,  and also about strain this pandemic is putting on doctors, nurses and other frontline health care workers. 

IHME is projecting peak resource use on April 21st. The institute says Florida will need 1,557 ICU beds, and 1,323 invasive ventilators.

Dr. Mokdad said there's a wide range in both the projections for peak number of cases, and deaths, and that social distancing methods can have a big impact on the spread of the virus.

"In my state where I am in Washington, we were projecting from our earlier models about 1100 deaths. Now we're down to 600. Because people in Seattle started staying at home before these measures were implemented," said Mokdad.

"We have Microsoft for example, Boeing, asked their employees to work from home before the government even put these orders in place."

Dr. Mokdad said social distancing is critical to slowing the spread of the virus in Florida.

"We're talking about our loved ones, our friends, especially in Florida, where you guys have an older population where you have higher rates of cardiovascular diseases and cancer and diabetes, because of your older population. staying at home is much more important for you than anybody else, actually."

Dr. Mokdad said treating patients with COVID-19 is a challenge for physicians and nurses.

"To take care of a COVID-19 patient takes more time than it took us to take care of other patients," he said.

"Patients on COVID-19 are requiring more oxygen, are requiring more time and ICUs, more than what we have seen before. So we really need to do our part in every community in Florida to give our physicians a chance to have less patients and to provide the best medical care and save lives."

Dr. Mokdad said there's something else he wants people to keep in mind during this pandemic: be compassionate.

"There are many places in Seattle where poor people live, they can't afford to buy food because they're not working and they're not making and living and we need to be compassionate. We need to think about them. We need to make sure food banks have all the food that they need. We want to make sure that we take care of our own communities first and at the same time, when we start our recovery, we need to keep in mind those people who are affected the most."

After this interview was recorded, the Institute for Health Metrics revised it's projections down for Florida. IHME is now projecting Florida will not be short ICU beds, and it's projecting 4,357 COVID-19 deaths by August 4th, down from 6,770 deaths.