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Vanderbilt COVID-19 models show peak in mid-June

Model breaks down specific coronavirus statistics for Tennessee

MEMPHIS, Tennessee —

Researchers at Vanderbilt say in the Mid-South, if nothing changes, it will be mid June before we see our COVID-19 peak. That mid June date assumes we keep doing what we are doing when it comes to social distancing. It also says if we distance more, the date will come sooner and put less strain on hospitals. They also say if the “stay at home order” is lifted, cases will skyrocket.

This is the first time there has been a model that was created specifically for Tennessee. It has very specific Mid-South information.

"We are looking at Tennessee data specifically and making sure we are applying it correctly," said Melissa McPheeters, Vanderbilt researcher.

Dr. McPheeters says while other models compare Tennessee to what happened overseas in China and Italy, the Vanderbilt model was built using only Tennessee data, and it is updated daily. 

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The researchers lay out three scenarios:

1) Lift social distancing and COVID-19 cases will skyrocket, overwhelming Tennessee hospitals with the peak being in early May. 

2) Do what we are doing, also known as the status quo, and it results in patients taking up 5,000 hospital beds. That is about half of the beds in Tennessee and peaking in mid June.

3) More social distancing would put the peak in mid May and patients would only take up 2,000 to 3,000 hospital beds.

When it comes to the Mid-South, researchers say in March the transmission rate was much higher than it is now. On average, one Mid-South COVID-19 positive patient was transmitting the disease to nearly 5 people. Now, it’s down to 1.5.

"The Mid-South started off with a very high transmission rate. Likely reflective of the urban nature of the M-id-South, and they dipped very fast," said John Graves, Vanderbilt researcher. He added, "The turnaround of testing in the Memphis area has been consistently among the best in the state."

Right now statewide, for every person with COVID-19 is passing it on to 1.5 people. Researchers say the only way to suppress the virus is to lower the transmission rate to below one, and the researchers say that can only happen with additional social distancing.

The models only use Tennessee numbers; it doesn't take into consideration the number of patients that may come from outlying states like Mississippi or Arkansas.