State’s Covid-19 modeling shows peak mid-April to early May

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

In a lengthy Zoom news conference Thursday afternoon, members of the Scott administration explained that modeling done to predict the course of the coronavirus in Vermont is showing that the isolation and distancing measures ordered by the governor are working and that the peak of the infections should arrive between the middle of this month and the beginning of May.

Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak

Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak, who presented the modeling, noted that while they can be valuable for planning, they are less precise the further one looks out and that predictions don’t necessarily have to come true.

“We control the outcomes,” noted Pieciak who pointed to the the effect of the distancing and isolation orders in slowing the spread of the virus.

To view the Vermont models, click here.

Several of the graphs (notably pages 4 and 5) show the curve of the infection’s spread shallowing out, the number of days it takes for the cases to double growing longer, and the growth rate declining compared to the number of cases (page 6.)

Compared with early best and worst case estimates, the actual curve of the infection is closer to the best case and roughly following its track (page 8.) Graphs of the reduction in mobility are also good news, according to Pieciak.

‘The worst is ahead of us’

In all, the message was that the steps taken up to now – closing restaurants, closing schools and tightening the closings – have been effective, but must continue.

“We are on a trajectory that is even better than what was the likely outcome,” said Pieciak. “We are trying to increase our hospital resources but we really need people to continue to do their social distancing habits. We are seeing an impact early on which can be magnified and improved, but that improvement can change if people change their habits. We are not out of the woods yet. The worst is ahead of us.”

Secretary of Human Services Michael Smith

“We really need people to be vigilant,” he added.

Detailing the state’s medical surge preparations, Secretary of Human Services Michael Smith told reporters that planning for a spike in Covid-19 cases requires using the worst case scenarios.

And while surge capacity is often associated with keeping hospitals from becoming overrun, Smith noted that other factors include special populations – like mental health patients with Covid-19 – that will also need care and providing isolation sites for vulnerable populations, such as the the homeless who don’t need hospitalization but need a safe place to isolate.

According to Smith, the surge centers are being rolled out incrementally to only use resources that are needed and avoid overbuilding. These sites will – for the most part – not care for Covid-19 patients, but instead take the overflow of conventional patients.

The 400-bed Champlain Valley Expo site and the 150-bed Rutland County site were selected for access to labor and Guard bases. Part of the attraction of the Rutland site was its medevac capabilities and access to Routes 4 and 7, said Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling.

The Barre and St. Albans sites can accommodate 50 beds each and  the UVM Patrick Gymnasium’s 150 beds may include Covid-19 patients.

The two “surge trailers” staged at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and Mt. Ascutney Medical Center are a basically a truckload of equipment to put up a 50-bed treatment site. Schirling said these would be put into places as the need arises although he would not say if they required a brick and mortar building, tents or other structures.

There are also two “portable hospitals” with 20 beds each that can be sent out to an area where a need exists.

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