UNMC: Experts predict high infection numbers from COVID-19 if precautions aren't taken

Officials with the Iowa City VA Health Care System have announced they will start active...
Officials with the Iowa City VA Health Care System have announced they will start active screening at all sites. This will begin on Wednesday, March 11. "While the Centers for Disease Control still considers COVID-19 to be a low threat to the American public, the Iowa City VA Health Care System is paying special attention to it," officials said in the release. (MGN Image)(KWQC)
Published: Mar. 10, 2020 at 9:45 PM CDT
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Numbers released from the University of Nebraska Medical Center estimate nearly 96 million Americans could become infected with COVID-19, resulting in roughly 480,000 deaths.

UNMC said those numbers can only hold true if no precautions are taken to stop the spread of the virus.

Nebraska State Senators were briefed on the UNMC's “Best Guess Epidemiology" numbers for the coronavirus on Tuesday morning.

Lincoln Lancaster County Health Director Pat Lopez presented lawmakers with the numbers provided by UNMC, which estimates 96 million people could be infected with the virus in the United States resulting in 480,000 deaths in America. UNMC also estimates there could be 4.8 million hospital admissions in the U.S. with 1.9 million people being sent to the Intensive Care Unit.

For comparison, so far this flu season, the Center for Disease Control reports that in America there have been 34 million flu illnesses, 350,000 hospitalizations, and 20,000 deaths from influenza.

During the 2018-2019 flu season, a total of 34,157 people died of influenza in the United States.

“Things are going to ramp up, I think that is a well-known fact,” said Shelly Schwedhelm, the Executive Director of Bio Preparedness at UNMC, in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

Schwedhelm said the numbers are just the best guess experts can calculate and are based on available data as well as watching and learning how the virus spread in other countries.

"What we've done is really take those numbers, and put them into action here, for ourselves," Schwedhelm said. "So, we've looked at Nebraska, we've looked at then, what is our primary service area here that we support within several county region areas and then, what would that mean to us?"

Schwedhelm said they hope the projections are wrong, and that the public can help by taking every precaution possible. UNMC's guestimates a death rate of .5 percent, meaning 1 in every 200 people who have the virus would die.