COVID-19 kills youngest county resident to date; Lawrence’s hospital discusses past and future inpatient predictions

photo by: Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health

Dec. 2 COVID-19 update from the health department

One more Douglas County resident has died from COVID-19, according to the health department, making this the fifth COVID-19-related death in the past week. The death announced Wednesday is also the youngest person to have died from COVID-19 in the county to date.

The new death, which brings the total to 27, was a male in the 45-to-54 age range who had been hospitalized in the region at the time of death, health department spokesperson George Diepenbrock said.

Previously, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health announced that 26 people — seven residents between the ages of 65 and 74, six residents between the ages of 75 and 84 and 13 residents age 85 or older — had died from COVID-19 or with the virus as a contributing factor in their deaths.

Douglas County reported 4,968 cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday, an increase of 40 cases since Tuesday. Of the 4,968 cases, 3,915 are inactive or beyond the infectious period, meaning 1,053 cases are active.

The county has averaged roughly 59 new cases per day over the last 14 days, according to a 14-day moving average graph updated weekdays by the health department. The current average of 59.07 new cases per day is down from a recent high of 74 cases per day in mid-November and up from a recent low of 18 cases per day in mid-October.

Twenty patients at Lawrence’s hospital had COVID-19 on Wednesday, the same number as Tuesday.

KDHE’s online map noted that 41,396 Douglas County residents had been tested for the disease so far. The county’s testing rate per 1,000 people was 338.6.

LMH Health COVID-19 inpatient projections

The Journal-World reported two weeks ago that Lawrence’s hospital was projecting a 500% increase in COVID-19 inpatients by Dec. 1, which was Tuesday.

On Nov. 17, LMH Health had 28 COVID-19 inpatients, and one of the hospital’s infectious disease experts, Dr. Jennifer Schrimsher, said the hospital was anticipating the possibility of 173 COVID-19 inpatients on Dec. 1. On Tuesday, however, LMH Health only had 20 COVID-19 inpatients.

When asked why the projections were so off, Schrimsher told the Journal-World Wednesday morning that it was because the forecast model was based off the steep increase in COVID-19 inpatients the hospital had seen in the weeks prior to the COVID-19 town hall, when the projections were shared.

“We went from around 3-4 COVID positive inpatients to 20 within several days, and then up to 35 within the next week or so,” Schrimsher said. “The forecast model used that steep slope, or angle of rise, to project future COVID admissions along a similar trend.”

Schrimsher said LMH Health uses The University of Kansas Health System’s (UKHS) “ensemble model” as well as LMH Health’s own model to make predictions, and that LMH Health’s own models are typically more conservative.

“We knew why the previously discussed forecast was projecting so many admissions, and we knew that it was likely an overestimate, but we still prepared for the possibility,” Schrimsher said.

Schrimsher noted that forecasts and projections are not meant to be taken as fact, but are used as tools for preparation.

“We’re all trying to use the best numbers, statistical methods and modeling profiles to predict something novel, there is no historical experience to draw upon,” she said. “Combine this new frontier with the constantly changing landscape, primarily the behaviors of people, and you can imagine how difficult it is.”

The current projections from both the UKHS model and LMH Health’s model are less drastic than the ones from mid-November. Schrimsher said the UKHS model and LMH Health model, respectively, are showing approximately 45 and 37 inpatients on Dec. 15.


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