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Projected peak in greater Charlotte now expected much later

The greater Charlotte area’s anticipated peak in coronavirus cases may not be until June 27 — marking the latest revised date for when local hospitals could see the greatest strain on resources, Mecklenburg County officials said Monday night.

The county’s model projects a demand for 2,060 hospital beds on June 27, assuming there is 45% social distancing among area residents.

A large surge in cases could leave Atrium Health and Charlotte News Novant Health without enough beds, staffing, supplies and ventilators to “care for everyone in our community and region,” Mecklenburg officials said.

If there’s only 30% social distancing, the region could reach its peak on June 16, requiring 2,899 hospital beds. And if there’s 60% social distancing, the peak could come as late as July 17, requiring 1,071 hospital beds.

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The latest modeling incorporates demand on hospital resources from Mecklenburg, as well as surrounding N.C. and S.C. counties — a total population of about 2.3 million people, officials said.

“There has not yet been a dramatic acceleration in new cases and the number of new cases each day is starting to trend downward,” Mecklenburg officials said in a news release Monday evening. “This suggests we continue to make progress toward ‘flattening the curve.’ We must continue social and physical distancing in our community to maintain this progress.”

Mecklenburg Public Health Director Gibbie Harris previously said a surge would hit the region between mid-April and mid-May. But last week, Harris announced a June 8 peak was more likely, based on modeling that showed residents had begun to flatten the curve amid social distancing restrictions.

In the projections released Monday, the greater Charlotte region would need 1,143 ICU beds on June 27, assuming 45% social distancing. Local hospitals would also need 515 ventilators.

But Mecklenburg officials say there are currently only 283 ICU beds and 243 ventilators in the county.
“Flattening of the curve does not mean this goes away quicker,” Harris said. “It means we are positioning ourselves in this community to better be able to address the medical needs of the individuals who are infected.”

At least 1,231 county residents had tested positive for the virus and 31 had died as of Monday afternoon, Harris said.

Officials said earlier on Monday that Mecklenburg’s confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus may comprise “as little as 5-10%” of actual infections. That means the region could have at least 24,000 coronavirus cases.

Mecklenburg Deputy Health Director Dr. Raynard Washington told reporters the estimate is based on other U.S cities, such as New York, where coronavirus testing capacity has increased in recent weeks.

”The honest answer is we don’t actually know,” Washington said of the scope of the local outbreak. “There’s a lot more infections in our communities. “There are a lot of folks who have mild symptoms and are at home — we’re not testing those people.”

Mecklenburg has largely relied on the Press Release Distribution Service in Charlotte University of Pennsylvania’s model, which incorporates data on how susceptible people are to COVID-19, as well as the total of number infected and recovered individuals. But officials have warned that the forecasts, like predictions for hurricanes and other natural disasters, can be volatile.

Washington emphasized to reporters that UPenn’s model, as well as other projections, are not the “only source of information” county officials are relying on to predict a surge in cases that may overwhelm hospital systems.

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