Tracking coronavirus in Kentucky compared to border states

How many Kentuckians will be infected with the coronavirus? How many will develop its disease, covid-19? How many will die from the disease? And how does Kentucky compare to adjoining states?

The answers to those questions are still unclear, mainly because testing for the virus is still very limited, handicapping scientists who track diseases.

A group of epidemiologists has a model, used by Gov. Andy Beshear, which projects that Kentucky will lose less of its population to covid-19 than any major bordering state except West Virginia, a small state with even more limited data.

However, the latest forecast from another model, first reported in the state by Kentucky Health News a week ago, also shows Kentucky not doing as well as it did in the previous forecast.

The model that Beshear has shown at his daily press conferences, in simplified form, gives estimates in round numbers, indicating how preliminary the forecasts are.

It projects that Kentucky will lose 13,000 people to covid-19 if there is poor compliance with Beshear’s orders that have banned mass gatherings, shut down schools and shuttered most businesses and churches. That is 0.29 percent of the state’s population. That is less than any other bordering state except West Virginia, which is virtually the same at 0.28%.

If there is strict compliance, the model projects, Kentucky will lose 2,000 citizens, or 0.04% of its population. That is less than any bordering state, with the possible exception of West Virginia, where the forecast is merely for fewer than 1,000, or 0.06% — apparently rough because of the state’s small population and limited data.

The worst bordering state in both scenarios of the model is Illinois, which is projected to lose 0.53% in the poor-compliance scenario and 0.18% with strict compliance.

The model’s graph for Kentucky implicitly illustrates how preliminary the projections are.

The graph marks the day it was made, April 6, which is almost two months before June 4, the day the model projects Kentucky hospitals would become overloaded with covid-19 patients if there is poor compliance with Beshear’s orders. In the strict-compliance scenario, there would be plenty of hospital beds, but the peak use of hospitals would be even later in June.

A much earlier peak of hospital use, and of deaths, is projected by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. It says the likeliest peak for use of hospitals is April 21, and the likeliest peak for deaths is April 24-25, with 54 deaths each day.

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