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Michigan Medicine: Aggressive social distancing could reduce peak COVID-19 cases by 65%

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Posted at 2:00 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 15:20:55-04

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — New projections from Michigan Medicine show that aggressive social distancing could reduce the number of COVID-19 patients at U-M hospitals by as much as 65% at its peak in early May. The results of the projections were released on Tuesday afternoon.

“This data confirms that everyone in Michigan can help us flatten the curve and it is crucial. This is not to be taken lightly,” said Vikas Parekh, M.D., associate chief clinical officer for Michigan Medicine’s adult hospitals and professor of internal medicine.

Through prolonged and sustained aggressive social distancing, Michigan residents can reduce the portion of the population who become infected, Parekh said, which would reduce the estimates for the number of people requiring hospitalization.

Aggressive social distancing means staying away from anyone else outside your immediate family and limiting going out to a store or pharmacy for only urgent needs. Schools and businesses close and large gatherings are canceled. Walking outside is fine as long as people maintain a six-foot distance.

“In a scenario where the virus spreads throughout the local population infecting the majority of the population, our model shows tremendous differences between less and more aggressive social distancing,” Parekh said.

According to forecasting models, in a worst-case scenario, the peak number of patients at at U-M hospitals could be 5,860 on May 4. With aggressive social distancing, the model shows about 2,000 patients on the same date.

Michigan Medicine is licensed for 1,000 beds, but knowing the surge is coming and will exceed its capacity, they are developing other options. That could mean converting other space for patient care or converting nearby univeristy dorms.

“We have teams working around the clock to plan for this potential surge in patients. The projections are alarming. But we know, based on experiences in Italy and China and other countries, that we can significantly flatten that curve with the help of the public,” said Marschall Runge, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of Michigan Medicine, dean of the U-M Medical School and executive vice president for Medical Affairs at the University of Michigan. “We prepare constantly for emergencies like this and have some of the world’s top experts preparing for the problem. But we need your help, and these projections prove it.”

“The impact is striking. It is critical that our community maintains a high level of social distancing to help our healthcare community continue to care for COVID-19 patients and all of our patients at the highest, best standards,” Parekh said.

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