(KTAL/KMSS) — The peak of the COVID-19 pandemic is about nine days away for Louisiana, according to projections published by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

According to those projections, Louisiana will hit peak hospital resource use on April 8.

That’s in line with the timing Gov. John Bel Edwards has referenced in recent briefings.

“We are far from OK,” Edwards said in a briefing Wednesday. “If our growth continues, we could potentially run out of vents the first week in April in the New Orleans area.”  

At that time, the number of hospital beds needed for COVID-19 patients will exceed the number available in Louisiana, according to the IHME model. It projects Louisiana will be more than 2,013 beds short of the 9,217 hospital beds it will need for COVID-19 patients when the pandemic peaks.

The outlook for intensive care units is even grimmer, with just one-third of the ICU beds needed for an anticipated 1,426 ICU patients with COVID-19.

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The IHME model also projects Louisana will need 775 ventilators, representing just over 4% of the 18,767 the nation needs. President Donald Trump has tapped General Motors and others to start building more ventilators to try to meet that need.

The IHME predicts the number of deaths per day will peak in Louisiana at 97 on April 9-10. The models project 2,081 deaths in the state before the coronavirus stops spreading in mid-May.

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Gov. Edwards said Sunday that the Ernest Morial Convention Center in New Orleans is being set up with 1,000 beds to take on patient overflow from local hospitals, which should be ready in one week and have the capacity to expand.

In addition to staging for extra beds at the convention center in New Orleans, Edwards said work was underway to expand ICU beds at hospitals around the state, including at LSU Oschner Health in Shreveport, where he said they will be adding 120 ICU beds over the next month.

“It is my hope and my prayer that we will not need them,” Edwards said.

As of Sunday, Louisiana Department of Health figures counted 3,540 people known to be infected statewide and 151 people have died from the coronavirus. 1,127 are hospitalized, more than a third of them on ventilators.

The nation is on track for a shortage of 49,292 hospital beds at the height of the pandemic, with an ICU bed shortage of 14,601, according to the IHME. That’s if all states institute social distancing and other prevention measures by April 2. If not, IHME warns the numbers will increase.

Nationwide, IHME is predicting 2,341 will die at the height of the pandemic on April 14, with the daily death toll finally dropping below 100 on June 12. By Aug. 4, an estimated 81,114 people in the U.S. will have died from COVID-19, if the IHME’s predictions hold true.

The group says more action will be needed to avoid a second wave of COVID-19 cases.

“By end the of the first wave of the epidemic, an estimated 97% of the population of the United States will still be susceptible to the disease, so avoiding reintroduction of COVID-19 through mass screening, contact tracing, and quarantine will be essential to avoid a second wave,” the organization states on its website.

The IHME says its forecast model is designed to address the planning needs of hospitals and local governments, with data coming from local and national governments, hospital networks and other sources including the World Health Organization and American Hospital Association.

Click here to see what the models say about when the pandemic will peak in Texas

“No state, no metro area will be spared. And the sooner that we react and the sooner the states and the metro areas react and ensure that they put in full mitigation at the same time understanding exactly what their hospitals need, then we’ll be able to move forward together and protect the most Americans,” White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said Sunday on NBC’s Meet The Press, referring to IHME’s forecast.

Birx says the coronavirus pandemic will move in waves, peaking in each metro area at different times.

“What we’re trying to say to everyone is when this virus comes to your metro area, please stay in your metro area where your care can be provided because it’s spreading virus more quickly around the United States,” Birx said, referring to the spread of COVID-19 from New York to Long Island and southern Florida as people left the city amid alerts.

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