PORTLAND — “The storm is coming,” Gov. Kate Brown said over the weekend in a plea for Oregonians to stay home to help prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus. Patients with the virus are beginning to hit Oregon hospitals in meaningful numbers, and public health officials worry that the inevitable surge soon will overwhelm the state medical system’s ability to care for those suffering from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the runaway virus.
The new website Covid Act Now — created by data scientists, including a former Google Cloud executive, “in partnership with epidemiologists, public health officials and political leaders” — offers a visualization of what Oregon could be facing very soon. And it’s not encouraging.
Even with so-called “social distancing” orders in place — that is, people staying home except for weekly trips to the grocery store and necessary outings like doctor appointments — the website sees COVID-19 patients swamping Oregon hospital capacity by the middle of April.
The “point of no return for intervention to prevent hospital overload,” the model concludes, is nigh: March 24 to March 29.
To be sure, this is educated guesswork. The site clearly states: “This model is intended to help make fast decisions, not predict the future.”
Covid Act Now lays out the model’s assumptions in a note, pointing out that the coronavirus is “a new disease. Variables will change.”