Projections offer limited relief from uncertainty on virus

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Uncertainty is one of most frightening things about a threat such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and even though a couple of items Monday weren’t necessarily good news, they helped alleviate some of the uncertainty.

Gov. Pete Ricketts confirmed expectations during his daily briefing Monday, saying April will be another “tough month,” calling for continued the 10-person limit on social gatherings, and tougher restrictions in more hard-hit counties, including 12 more in the Panhandle with May 11 expiration..

Nebraska confirmed its third COVID-19 death Monday, a 90-year-old man in Lincoln county, and there were 153 confirmed cases in the state, with more than 2,700 people testing negative.

Officials point out that for most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. And, while older adults and people with existing health problems are more vulnerable to more severy illness like pneumonia, people of all ages have had serious infections.

While giving the state demerits for not instituting more widespread restrictions, a study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation says that while Nebraska may have barely enough hospital beds to care for the most seriously ill, more than 400 of us are likely to succumb to the disease by August.

The study predicts a peak of 13 (7 to 24) deaths per day about May 1, with 197 patients needing one of the 232 intensive care unit beds available. There’s still uncertainty, however, since that 197 number is the mid-point of a range of 99 to 377 ICU beds needed.

Some 158 ventilators will be needed at peak demand, but the study doesn’t list availability.

Yes, April will be another tough month, perhaps the toughest most Nebraskans have experienced. But most Nebraskans are ready and willing to take on a tough challenge, especially we know what it is. Let’s hope most of us continue to heed the warnings and take the steps necessary to make a difference.

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