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If you’re an optimist, Monday morning brought cause for cheer: The University of Washington’s oft-cited Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation revised its coronavirus forecast for North Carolina is a decidedly optimistic direction.

“A week ago, on March 30 the IHME model forecast 2,411 deaths in North Carolina before August 4, with the peak coming on April 22. On that day, it predicted, the state’s hospitals would be short 686 hospital beds, 606 ICU beds, and 633 ventilators.”

“Monday’s model moves our peak up to April 15, but in every other way, it is unambiguously positive: The projected death toll is revised downward to 496 (technically, a range of 315–757), while we’re now projected to have far more ICU beds and hospital beds than we need. We are still 219 ventilators shy of the demand.”

→ WHAT IT MEANS: Social distancing is working, the curve is flattening, and if we stick with it through May—as the IHME model assumes—this wave of COVID-19 will be long gone by June. 

A couple of hours later, a grimmer picture emerged from a call-in press conference with state Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen and scientists from UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University, and RTI International who had put together their own projections.

“According to the state’s model, if social distancing policies are lifted at the end of April—which is when the state’s and local stay-at-home orders expire—about 750,000 North Carolinians could become infected by the virus by June 1. That would lead to a 50 percent probability that the state’s hospital system will run out of ICU beds. The model did not predict how many might die as a result.”

“Alternatively, if social distancing is maintained through June, the researchers say, 250,000 people in the state will likely contract coronavirus by June, with a surge in cases occurring sometime in mid-to-late May. Even in that scenario, there’s still a 25 percent chance that hospital systems exceed capacity and run out of beds.”

→ THE NUMBERS: As of Monday at 11:00 a.m., the state DHHS counted 2,870 cases and 33 deaths, which works out to a fatality rate of about 1.1 percent. If this mortality rate proves constant, this model suggests that North Carolina is looking at about 2,750 deaths if it maintains social distancing through May and 8,250 if it doesn’t. However, if hospitals become overwhelmed, that rate is likely to climb significantly. 

→ WHAT IT MEANS: It’s hard to read this press conference as anything other than Governor Cooper laying the groundwork to extend social-distancing rules another month.


Underlining the notion that there are two very different economies, the Poor People’s Campaign, the brainchild of the Reverend William J. Barber II, released its own analysis of the $2 trillion economic rescue package Congress passed last month, which it says “ignored the needs of millions of people.” 

“They include most of the 140 million poor and low-income people in the country: low-wage workers, homeless people, those who are uninsured or underinsured, students and undocumented people and their children, who are U.S. citizens.”

For example: “27.5 million uninsured people and over 10% of insured people can’t afford to see the doctor; have no guarantee of free or affordable treatment or hospital stays. Even with free testing for COVID-19, these people can’t afford treatment.”

Also: “Before the pandemic, 72 million people already faced medical debt burdens and 44 million families carry $1.5 trillion in student loans that were not forgiven. Without any provisions for free or affordable treatment or debt forgiveness, millions of people will find themselves even deeper in medical debt, housing debt, student debt, and more.”

ON THAT NOTE: The Southern Economic Advancement Project—former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’s organization—is out with its own report on the response to the pandemic among Southern states. 

“States in the South have yet to introduce comprehensive plans to mediate the economic damage of the pandemic. The scant coverage of public assistance programs, coupled with the potentially massive declines in spending and income, requires significant expansions of current programs and the creation of new programs to address the economic challenges triggered by the pandemic.”

“In the South, the absence of effective public assistance programs in a time of pandemic where residents are on the brink of severe economic losses reveals two truths: 1) policymakers cannot run on autopilot and expect existing programs to ward off economic disaster and 2) public assistance programs are inadequate in the South by design.”

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The newsletter is sponsored this week by Village Hearth Cohousing, a 55-and-up Durham cohousing community for the LGBTQ community, allies, and friends that will open in mid-May. They’ve brought together wonderful people from all over the country, and they’ve only got four homes left. Would you like to join them? Learn more about Village Hearth and whether it could be right for you or someone you love.  

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