In the two months between Oct. 19 and Dec. 15, forecasters predict, Arkansas’s death from confirmed cases of COVID-19 could roughly equal all the deaths that occurred in the eight months previous.
Between the start of the pandemic in mid-March and Oct. 19, 1,594 Arkansans died of confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to UAMS’ College of Public Health (the number differs from the number reported on that date by the state Department of Health because researchers use actual date of death rather than date the death is reported). The college’s short-term forecast, for Nov. 1, is 1,925, and its mid-term forecast, for Dec. 15, is 2,762. If those numbers prove accurate — short-term forecasting has proved fairly accurate, mid-term less so — by Dec. 15 deaths will have almost doubled since Oct. 19.
The short-term models, based on the most recent information as of Oct. 19, predicted cumulative confirmed and probable cases to reach 111,022 by Nov. 1, or 3,343 more than Tuesday’s number reported by the health department, 107,679. Short-term forecasts for Oct. 19 were only 1 percent higher than the actual number, the report notes.
“Arkansas, like the much of the rest of the United States, is entering a dangerous period in the pandemic,” Dr. Mark Williams, dean of the College of Public Health, says in a video released along with the report today. According to the short-term modeling, which is not as accurate as short-term forecasts but which COPH researchers have confidence in, there could be as many as 50,000 new cases of COVID-19 by Dec. 15, Williams said, and “if we also add in the number of undiagnosed cases there could be as many as 70,000 cases between now and Dec. 15.”
(Undiagnosed cases of COVID-19 estimated to make up 40 percent to 50 percent of total infections, according to peer-reviewed research, Williams said in a follow-up question. “When arriving at the total figure, I used the more conservative 40%.”)
As cases increase, so will hospitalizations: The COPH short-term forecast is for 7,109 cumulative hospitalizations by Nov. 1. The cumulative total today is 6,841, so the Nov. 1 number represents an increase to the cumulative total of 268 by Monday. Williams noted that the forecasts for hospitalization “continue to be worrisome, especially for older Arkansans. Almost one-fifth [18 percent] of adults over 60 who test positive for COVID-19 will be hospitalized.” One in five adults 75 and over who are hospitalized will die, the report says.
Williams also noted the strain that isolation and quarantine of new cases and their contacts would put on the economy, taking people out of the workforce for 10 days to two weeks.
“You may have heard that there is nothing we can do to control the pandemic,” Williams said, referring to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadow’s comment Sunday that “We’re not going to control the pandemic.”
“This is not true,” Williams said. “We can work to mitigate the spread of COVID and decrease daily infections by following public health guidelines,” including avoiding large gatherings, even of friends.
The video and report, which includes the Arkansas Pandemic Poll, which includes such information as people’s access to doctors and ability to afford medications, can be found here.