See how flattening the curve in Georgia could save thousands of lives

Many of us are just beginning to understand what sheltering-in-place looks like and feels like. But a new online tool by the group "Coronavirus Act Now" projects what could happen to our hospitals

if we don't take dramatic action now, to try to head off a wave of COVID-19 infections public health experts warn is coming.

"COVID is basically weeks ahead of you.  You have to act weeks ahead of time to stop exponential growth," says Jonathan Kreiss-Thomkins. "Exponential growth is so incredibly powerful.  We're talking about a virus that is infecting people and has the ability to kill many, many people."

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Alaska State Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Thomkins is part of the team of about 20 engineers, data scientists and policymakers who've created an online tool projecting how hard hospitals in each state could be hit with COVID-19.

Here in Georgia, they estimate we have 11,000 hospital beds, and the ability to double that if we needed it.

But the number of patients who will need those beds -- differs radically, based on 3 scenarios:

  1. We do nothing.
  2. We practice social distancing for 3 months.
  3. We shelter-in-place for 90 days.

"The more aggressive action we take now, the more lives we can save in 7 to 14 days as this exponential growth takes off," says Jonathan Kreiss-Thomkins. "Sheltering in place is really the best action where states can go, right now, pretty much across the board.  Regardless of what the data shows, everybody should be doing that."

According to estimates, with 3 months of social distancing, the group projects more than 70% of Georgians could be infected. However, if we could push back the peak in cases until April 20 the group projects, we could have as many as 158,000 deaths.

But imposing tougher restrictions would push the peak back to June. 

As claimed by estimates, with 3 months of the shelter-in-place approach, the group projects as few as 5% of Georgians infected. Hospitals wouldn't be overloaded, and we would still have as many as 6,000 deaths.

But Kreiss-Thomkins says there is still a chance to lessen the blow.

"The healthcare system can't serve people if the healthcare system doesn't have the capacity if it's overwhelmed. So that really is the question here.  Trying to spread things out, flatten the curve and buy times," says Kreiss-Thompkins.

But, he warns, that window to head off a surge is closing quickly.