Last week, a study by the University of Washington projected an overwhelming drain on resources and an estimated 3,422 COVID-19 deaths in Tennessee, but researchers have significantly lowered their projections.

Updated Sunday, the new projection suggests Tennessee is well-equipped to fight the virus and may see fewer than 600 deaths statewide – but only with full social distancing.

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“While some of the data we’ve seen today is somewhat encouraging, we implore the public to stay at home,” said Covington Mayor Justin Hanson. “These numbers assume people maintain full social distancing through May, which is a big assumption.”

The state is now expected to hit its peak resource use four days earlier on April 15 instead of April 19.

The study now shows 25 Tennesseans are expected to die as a result of COVID-19 on April 18, the state’s date of projected peak in daily deaths. The statewide deaths were estimated at 587 over the next four months.

In terms of resources, the revised study suggests:

  • the projected need for hospital beds decreased from 15,618 to 1,232; the state currently has 7,812
  • the state is now expected to need only 245 ICU beds instead of the 2,428 originally projected; the state has 629
  • Tennessee will only need 208 invasive ventilators, not the 1,943 first projected

Baptist Tipton administrator Parker Harris said the 100-bed facility in Covington is prepared.

“It’s hard to speculate the situation from our perspective, given that it’s ever-changing. In terms of locally, I am confident in the fantastic staff at Baptist Tipton and that we’re ready to respond. We have the capacity to take care of our community and the resources of the whole Baptist network ready to assist if that’s ever needed.”

That doesn’t mean it’s time to relax on social distancing, though

County Executive Jeff Huffman is encouraged by the projection, but wants the public to know that doesn’t mean it’s time to relax on practicing social distancing.

“In order to stay ahead of this we have to be vigilant about staying home,” he said. “We can’t relax the rules because the numbers will go back up. I don’t want to do that.”

On April 2, Huffman joined Gov. Bill Lee in mandating a stay at home order. Residents should not be engaged in non-essential activities. Tipton County’s sheriff and police chiefs want everyone to stay home as much as possible.

Social distancing, which is the term that’s been given to keeping at least 6 feet from others and not gathering in groups of 10 or more people, is just one measure used by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation for the projections. Others include hospital capacity, testing, confirmed cases, deaths and mandates by government agencies.

Coronavirus and Tipton County

Last week, Tipton County was rated a D- on social distancing.

The county reported 36 confirmed cases on Monday, which is an average increase of two new confirmed cases each day since March 19 and 5.89 cases per 10,000 residents.

Tipton actually leads West Tennessee in percentage of confirmed COVID-19 cases and ranks 13th in the state for cases per capita.

New data from Baptist-Tipton shows four patients are currently hospitalized and waiting on results of COVID-19 testing.

Statewide, Monday’s data from the Tennessee Department of Health showed at least 3,802 confirmed cases and 65 deaths. At least 352 people had been hospitalized at some point during infection.

The revised study is good news, but only if people take social distancing seriously.

“We need to take the advice that’s being given by medical folks,” Huffman said. “Right now, even with where the new projections are, being vigilant is the only defense we have.”

Hanson agreed, saying staying the course it’s what’s going to mean the difference between the first projection and the second.

“The bottom line here is saving lives,” he said.