‘We can’t let up:’ Local leaders skeptical about social distancing data

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — New research gives people across the U.S. a more exact idea of when the surge of coronavirus cases will happen.

University of Washington researchers started looking at data to help their own medical school prepare, then they started getting requests from other states. So they created a predictive data tool showing statistics of beds and supplies available compared with what’s needed on any given day.

The data shows Tennessee’s peak resource use will come on April 15, but it shows the state will not have a bed shortage in the hospitals or ICUs and it has enough ventilators.

“Even if you buy into the optimistic report today, it’s based on the social distancing we’ve done,” Mayor Jim Strickland said. “We can’t let up.”

Social distancing effectiveness helped researchers make the conclusions.

Strickland also said the Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force is relying on different numbers which indicated they need to add 1,000 hospital beds. That’s why officials announced they’re building three makeshift treatment centers.

“We all anticipate a surge to occur within a couple weeks or so,” Shelby County Health Department officer Dr. Bruce Randolph said.

WREG asked health department officials for the local data but they said they can’t release it to the public right now.

Meanwhile, Strickland said there’s another reason they’re counting on their own research rather than national data.

“I don’t know if they consider patients coming from Arkansas and Mississippi into our hospitals,” he said.

Strickland said it’s better to hope for the best and plan for the worst.

WREG contacted University of Washington researchers to try to find out if they took out-of-state patients into account, but we have yet to hear back.

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