Study predicts surge in NC COVID infection rate if distancing guidelines lifted too soon

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Predictive models released by state epidemiologists and data scientists showed hospitals in North Carolina will likely reach and exceed capacity if the distancing guidelines are lifted at the end of the month.

The models showed there will likely be a shortage of hospital beds, and the number of infected patients could jump much higher.

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The projection are based on two scenarios – keeping the current plan in place, or extending it even further beyond April.

If we lift the state distancing guidelines at the end of April as planned, the study shows our hospitals could see a surge in May and June. Experts say around 750,000 North Carolinians could be infected by June.

If this were to happen, New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s Chief Clinical Director Dr. West Paul says they could be facing a serious shortage of resources, and four to five percent will need hospitalization.

He says these distancing guidelines are crucial to keeping hospitals afloat.

“We’re planning worst case scenario,” Paul said. “Probable case scenario. If we moved into a worst case scenario, we would not have the staff. We would not have the ventilators. We would not have the hospital beds to really take care of that. That’s our greatest worry as physicians and nurses and providers of care, that we don’t have enough. Including ourselves.”

However, if North Carolinians continue some social distancing past the end of April, the study shows the number of infected patients could drop half a million to 250,000.