Vanderbilt releases new projections about COVID-19 spread after economic re-open


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have released a new study with projections on what could happen if COVID-19 continues to spread, once the economy re-opens.

“What they [Friday’s projections] demonstrate today is what Tennessee’s path forward could look like, and for how long regular business could continue before our state’s healthcare resources might become overburdened,” said Dr. John Graves with Vanderbilt.

In a study released by the University last week, researchers said social distancing efforts had worked to lower the state’s transmission rate to around 1.0.

That rate is the number of people that contract COVID-19 from one infected person. In order to suppress the virus, the transmission number must stay at or below 1.0 for a sustained period of time.

Based on the data released in Friday’s study—researchers shared that the state’s success is lowering the virus’s transmission rate could quickly unravel.

The data projects the best and worst-case scenarios that could happen at three possible re-open dates: May 1, May 15, and June 1. The scenarios depend on whether the virus’s transmission rate increases or continues to decrease at those given dates.

“Nobody knows of course, including ourselves, exactly how much the transmission number will change as Safer-At-Home protocols will ease, but we do know the number of social contacts among Tennesseans will increase after they [protocols] are scaled back to some degree,” added Dr. Graves.

The data shows that the best-case scenario is that the economy reopens on May 1, and stays open because the transmission rate is at or below 1.0. This scenario would also mean that the state’s healthcare system is not overburdened.

The worst-case scenario is that the economy re-opens on May 1, but the transmission rate spikes to 1.5. According to the study, if that were to happen it would take only 46 days for hospitals to become overburdened.

Graves summarized the study like this, “So the takeaway in this chart is that the longer social distancing is continued, the longer we can stay 1.0 and the more the transmission of the virus is reduced, the longer the economy could stay open before overburdening the state’s hospital and risking the health of all Tennesseans, and not just those who are suffering from COVID-19.

In a virtual press conference held on Friday, researchers said projections could shift depending on when the state’s metropolitan areas choose to ease restrictions.

Read the full study below:

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