State Health Commissioner Dr. Box disputing coronavirus forecast model

(photo supplied / Dr. Kristina Box)

INDIANAPOLIS (Network Indiana) – Indiana’s health commissioner is taking issue with a coronavirus forecast predicting Hoosier deaths will more than quadruple by August.

The widely followed University of Washington model projects more than 6,200 Indiana deaths by August 4. Commissioner Kristina Box says the state is using the model to shape decisionmaking, along with several others.But she says the university is using incorrect numbers which skew the end result.

The Washington model assumes Indiana has 706 intensive care beds to work withIndiana has more than a thousand open beds right now, plus 600 emergency beds it converted back to regular beds as the patient load slackened over the last two weeks. Box contends the model undercounts Indiana’s supply of ventilators as well.

And Box argues Indiana’s not getting proper credit for the fine print of the roadmap to lift restriction. The “roadmap” Governor Holcomb issued last week to gradually open the state by the Fourth of July still urges senior citizens and Hoosiers with underlying health conditions to continue to shelter in place. Even when the last restrictions are lifted, the roadmap advises those at high risk to observe social distancing and “remain cautious.”

Holcomb vows to change course and slow the relaxation of restrictions if need be. He says Hoosiers face not a choice between staying home or putting themselves at risk, but decisions about how to can resume normal activities safely and responsibly. Box says the health department itself is bringing employees back from working at home a few at a time.

The state faces its next test of whether the data justify looser restrictions this weekend. Lake County is one of four which remain under the original, stricter stay-home order, but is scheduled to join most of the state Monday in allowing non-essential businesses to reopen. Box says officials will review the data over the weekend.

Lake County has added about 400 coronavirus cases over the last week and now has more than 23-hundred, second only to Marion County. 24-percent of the county’s virus patients have required hospitalization, compared to 19-percent statewide.

The University of Washington model itself allows for best and worst-case scenarios. It sees as few as 800 additional Indiana deaths — or as many as 20-thousand.