Breaking News
More () »

Researchers say Memphis-area COVID-19 infections are trending downward, even as deaths rise

The death rates for COVID-19 infections may be increasing but researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics & Evaluation predict new cases will decline.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — New predictions estimate there will be more than 12,000 COVID fatalities in the state of Tennessee by May 1, 2021.

Researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington said while the number of deaths will continue to go up, infection rates in the Mid-South are on their way down.  

"You're moving in the right direction," said Dr. Ali Mokdad, IHME Spokesperson and Chief Strategy Officer for Population Health.

Mokdad is talking about COVID cases in Tennessee. According to the IMHE, COVID-19 cases in the volunteer state peaked on January 12, and over the next few months will see a sharp decline.

"Things will start getting better in Tennessee overall. A combination of vaccine roll-out and seasonality - the weather is going to help us as we move forward," says Mokdad.

While cases are slowing, deaths are rising. Researchers at the University of Washington Institute said forecasts show 4,000 additional Tennesseans will lose their lives to COVID by May 1st. It's projected 12,588 will die from the virus by that date. IMHE also predicts by January 28th, Tennessee could run out of ICU beds, but Mokdad said because the state has surge capacity to expand, we should get through it okay.

To get these predictions, the researchers collect data from a variety of sources. State data, mask wearing rates, and cell phone data are just a few sources, then the modeling is done. 

RELATED: US virus death toll tops 400,000 in Trump's final hours

RELATED: Vaccines won't curb COVID-19 spread in US until late spring, White House report says

In Mississippi, the models predict that by May 1st, 7,393 will have died from COVID since the pandemic began. Mokdad said the of number of cases peaked in Mississippi on January 11th and are on the way down.

Arkansas is following a similar pattern.

"Cases are coming down, which is very good. Mortality will come down, which is extremely good. Hospitalization will come down as long as we maintain our good behaviors," said Mokdad.

Mokdad said long as we continue to mask and social distance, we should be in good shape by summer. But he cautioned not to celebrate too much or too soon.

"People change their behavior when cases are going up - and when cases start coming down people do change their behavior, they are more likely to go outside, they are less likely to wear a mask, and we have seen this roller coaster," said Mokdad.

Mokdad said in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi, the percentage of people who wear masks is lower than other parts of the country. He said in Tennessee, if 95% of residents wore masks, 700 lives would be spared by May 1st.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation can be found at Healthdata.org.

In this analysis, we address this gap and provide novel estimates of the HIV mortality rate and the number of HIV deaths by age group, sex, and municipality in Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Mexico.

Before You Leave, Check This Out