American Hospital Association webinar guesstimates 480,000 deaths

A leaked slide from a presentation given to the American Hospital Association on Feb. 27 estimates that coronavirus could result in 96 million cases, 4.8 million hospitalizations and 480,000 deaths in the US:

The American Hospital Association, which represents thousands of hospitals and health systems, hosted a webinar in February with its member hospitals and health systems. Business Insider obtained a copy of the slides presented.

The presentation, titled “What healthcare leaders need to know: Preparing for the COVID-19” happened February 26, with representatives from the National Ebola Training and Education Center.

As part of the presentation to hospitals, Dr. James Lawler, a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center gave his “best guess” estimates of how much the virus might spread in the US.

Here’s the slide:

Note the last point – “Prepare for disease burden roughly 10x severe flu season.” This is the part the “just the flu, bro” idiots are missing. Even with a “low” fatality rate of 0.5% and “only” 5% of cases requiring hospitalization, a surge of coronavirus cases will overwhelm the US hospital system. Flu doesn’t do this.

And this is why, despite my growing skepticism that coronavirus is the global existential threat many fear it is, I am extremely concerned that the US is not properly equipped and prepared to manage the inevitable outbreaks here and is not doing enough to slow the spread of this highly contagious virus.

As usual, John Robb was ahead of the curve on this. See my Feb. 29 summary of his analysis:

The big problem is that there is very little slack in our health care system, as John Robb details in his latest Global Guerrillas Report. He points out that the US had about 1.5 million hospital beds in 1975, whereas now it has about 0.9 million despite the population being 50% higher. Run the numbers – it would only take a surge of as little as 100,000 patients to overwhelm the system.

The flu results in between 140,000 and 960,000 hospitalizations each year (source).

Related: An engineer on why coronavirus will break the US healthcare system.

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