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3News' Monica Robins: MetroHealth projections suggest Ohio’s COVID-19 peak could be ‘significantly lower’ than expected

'The importance of social distancing cannot be overstated. These models do not mean people can or should go back to life as normal.'

CLEVELAND — When will coronavirus reach its peak here in Ohio and how bad will it be?

There have been a variety of predictions and projections, but new modeling from MetroHealth suggests the peak for COVID-19 in Cuyahoga County "may be significantly lower in the number of infections than originally expected, and that the county could see sustained impact driven by clusters of infection rather than a single large surge." 

The models suggest a similar trend for Ohio with "significantly lower number of daily new infections than previously expected."

3News obtained MetroHealth's models Tuesday morning.

The modeling shows new confirmed cases of coronavirus could have gradual increases until late April with "irregular outbreaks in clusters throughout the year."

These projections, however, come with an important note.

"These models do not mean people can or should go back to life as normal," MetroHealth officials said. "In fact, they assume people will continue to stay home if they have symptoms, frequently wash or disinfect their hands, not touch their face and stay at least six feet apart when in public."

MetroHealth officials say keeping physical distance is still key to keeping the spread low.

"A bell-shaped surge would return if we were to become lax or immediately go back to numerous unprotected close contacts."

You can see Monica Robins' full interview with MetroHealth President and CEO Dr. Akram Boutros in the player below:

READ THE FULL STATEMENT FROM METROHEALTH ON THEIR NEW PROJECTIONS:

Modeling done by The MetroHealth System suggests the peak for COVID-19 in Cuyahoga County may be significantly lower in the number of infections than originally expected, and that the county could see sustained impact driven by clusters of infection rather than a single large surge.

“The leadership from Governor DeWine, Dr. Acton and others has saved lives and radically altered the spread of coronavirus. The public distancing response is historic and has changed the trajectory of the infection from being driven by widespread communal transmission to infection in clusters of people in close contact.” said MetroHealth CEO and President Akram Boutros, MD, FACHE.

Explore the MetroHealth models in the document below. Continue scrolling to read the remainder of MetroHealth's statement:

MetroHealth statement continues below:

The bell-shaped infection curves that people have seen numerous times, assume widespread contact and are not applicable to rigorous containment efforts. In contrast, the jagged sustained curve predicted by the MetroHealth models are based on network effect and contact limitation. The models were developed to help MetroHealth prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 epidemic in our community.

The MetroHealth models show new infections in Cuyahoga County gradually increasing until around late April, followed by irregular outbreaks in clusters throughout the year. A similar pattern is expected statewide, with Ohio having significantly lower number of daily new infections than previously expected and continuing at flat rate through the remainder of the year.

The importance of social distancing cannot be overstated. These models do not mean people can or should go back to life as normal. In fact, they assume people will continue to stay home if they have symptoms, frequently wash or disinfect their hands, not touch their face, and stay at least six feet apart when in public, Dr. Boutros said. If we were to become lax or immediately go back to numerous unprotected close contacts, the bell-shaped surge would return.

MetroHealth physicians and public health officials have already observed clusters of infection involving people who have attended funerals, after religious celebrations, in nursing homes, the Cuyahoga County Jail, and confined workspaces.

A lower number of infections obviously results in fewer deaths and hospitalizations than unfettered community-wide infection. He credits Ohio’s leadership on social distancing practices for lowering the actual number of infections. He believes the models should be viewed in context of the overall health of Cuyahoga County and Northeast Ohio.

“The models have serious policy implications and raise important questions about how to best provide healthcare to our community,” Dr. Boutros said. “If this scenario continues to play out over several months, one question we as health leaders must address is, at what point do should we resume preventive screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies? We will need to provide healthcare treatment that is now being put on hold, while at the same time containing the spread of coronavirus.”

The State of Ohio ordered the cessation of elective surgeries and most preventive screenings in mid-March as part of an effort to reduce the number of people coming into the hospital and potentially spreading the virus. That decision also helped preserve personal protective equipment and blunted the spread of coronavirus.

“It is too early to declare victory, but this is a signal that here in Northeast Ohio we might be in a difficult, sustained campaign instead of a relatively short but intense war,” Dr. Boutros said. “We will continue to prioritize the health and wellness of our patients, our employees and our community. We will get through this by working together.”

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Last week, Dr. Tomislav Mihaljevic, Cleveland Clinic President and CEO, said their modeling projections showed the peak would happen "sometime between mid-May and mid-June with a gradual decline in the number of cases toward mid-late July."

Ohio's first confirmed cases were reported March 9 with three infections in Cuyahoga County. The state's total had risen to 4,450 on Monday.

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