Avera Medical Minute: Surge Modeling tracks the COVID-19 pandemic

The Florida Department of Health has released the names of long-term care facilities with residents and/or staff members testing positive for COVID-19. (MGN)
The Florida Department of Health has released the names of long-term care facilities with residents and/or staff members testing positive for COVID-19. (MGN)(WJHG)
Published: Apr. 30, 2020 at 10:59 PM CDT
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For the past several weeks now we've heard the term "Surge Modeling" from local and state health leaders in reference to how they are able to track the COVID-19 pandemic.

But how exactly does that modeling work? And how reliable has it been in helping to keep tabs on the coronavirus?

We were able to speak with Dr. David Basel with Avera Health to walk us through some of the modeling and to tell us what that modeling is telling him.

Dr. David Basel: Right so surge modeling is trying to predict how many patients we're going to have in the hospital at a give time due to whatever. In this case COVID. So that we can plan for what kind of steps are we going to have to take to care for these patients and so it's looking at past history of similar sorts of epidemics to try and predict the flow of this epidemic.

Brian Allen: Are we still looking at the middle of June.....I believe...for the peak?

Dr. David Basel: Sioux Falls you have a bigger population a little bit closer together. So you're going to have a different spread pattern within the sioux falls metro than we are elsewhere in the state. Sioux Falls tends to surge more towards mid to late May and then the rest of the state is more into June at some point.

Brian Allen: When you've looked at this Surge Modeling specific to Sioux Falls...has late May been the consistent answer when the question is when's the peak? Or has it moved about a bit?

Dr. David Basel: Yeah and so it moves. one of the things that you have to do with the modeling is re-adjust based off of whether the actual numbers coming in. One of the things you can't predict is human behavior and also what effect a lot of the measures we've been taking and I can tell you the modeling....we've consistently been bringing those numbers down because we're showing that the effects that we've been taking with all of our efforts to stay socially distant and some pretty aggressive measures have had a wonderful effect from a health care system and being able to get this down to a manageable level. And that's why now you're hearing a lot more discussion going on about when do we re-open? How do we re-open? What does that look like? Because we have been so successful at keeping this tapped down.

Brian Allen: What does this modeling allow you at Avera to do? Does it allow you to say ok, we anticipate needing this much staff at this specific moment in time? We need this many beds at this moment in time?

Dr. David Basel: Probably the number one thing that we're looking at is the total number of beds and the number of ICU beds because the number one question that we're trying to answer all the time is are we going to be over our maximum capacity? Are we going to be able to handle the load when it comes? And at first before we had done anything that was in question a little bit that..oh my goodness this could be significant. And now as we've kind of changed people's mindsets and things we've seen those numbers continue to be able to keep that at more of a smoldering level across the state and we're like OK, we're gaining confidence every day now that we're going to be able to handle this surge when it comes.

Dr. Basel adds while many are developing cabin fever because of social distancing and self quarantining....he says those efforts have directly paid off in bringing down the Surge Modeling numbers for how bad the pandemic could be here at home.

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