UAMS COVID-19 modeling update estimates cases will be lower with virtual school opening

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,075 views 

New COVID-19 modeling from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences estimates daily infections will be “significantly lower” by Oct. 6 if public schools open with virtual learning only. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said schools will open Aug. 24 with in-class instruction.

The modeling update based on numbers as of Aug. 14, predicts 3,000 new daily infections by Oct. 6 with virtual learning only, 5,500 daily infections with a hybrid of virtual and in-class instruction, and 8,000 daily infections if all classes are in person.

“The mid-term simulations suggest COVID-19 cases will continue to rapidly increase through the end of September to early October. This will be accompanied by increasing deaths, at approximately one percent of those testing positive,” noted the UAMS report posted Tuesday (Aug. 18). “The simulations show different outcomes based on differing mask wearing and school opening scenarios. These indicate ways the high number of projected cases might be decreased. For example, if the public adheres to the face mask order, the number of new infections could essentially be cut in half. In turn, the number of new hospitalizations would also be reduced. If schools open with on-line classes only, the number of new cases could be decreased even further.”

Talk Business & Politics has asked Gov. Hutchinson’s office for a response to the UAMS modeling and will update this story when or if a response is received.

Short-term modeling estimates 713 deaths by Aug. 24, up 94 deaths over the 619 actual deaths reported Tuesday. The report also estimates nearly 58,000 known cumulative cases by Aug. 24. There were 53,487 known cases on Tuesday. Short-term estimates have the state with 1,447 ICU cases, which would be a large increase over the 492 hospitalizations reported Tuesday. The short-term modeling also estimated 1,116 deaths and almost 100,000 known cumulative cases by Sept. 30. The report also said research suggests “the number of COVID-19 infections in the community may be as much as 10 times higher than cases.”

The UAMS modeling also provides an estimate on cumulative cases by Aug. 24 by age group.
0-19: 9,000
20-34: 18,000
35-59: 23,000
60-74: 3,000

The UAMS update also notes that the positivity rate peaked at 14% on Aug. 6, and is now at 13%.

“The positivity rate is important indicator because it is another measure of the rate of COVID-19 transmission in the state. A lower positivity rate is indicative of less transmission. A higher positivity rate is indicative of higher COVID-19 transmission. The positivity rate has also taken on greater significance as part of CDC guidelines for opening schools,” according to the UAMS report.

Following are the updated long-term estimates.
• Mean-case estimates
Dec. 19
Active cases: 90,522
Hospitalizations: 2,263
ICU beds: 905
Ventilators: 362

• Worst-case estimates
Dec. 9
Active cases: 130,747
Hospitalizations: 3,268
ICU beds: 1,307
Ventilators: 522

“The assumptions underlying our eSIR model have been recalibrated. Long-term projections, now taking more Arkansas data into account, suggest the peak of the pandemic will be in mid-December at just over 90,000 active cases. After peaking, the pandemic will begin a slow, downward trend during the first months of 2021,” the report noted.