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How long can we expect coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis to last, based on timelines of other countries?

Dr. Frank McGeorge forecasts how US can flatten the curve

DETROIT – How long can we expect the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis to last? Dr. Frank McGeorge takes a look at the timelines of other countries to break down the sobering forecast.

We’ve been talking about flattening the curve and slowing the influx of severely ill patients, but hospitals in Southeast Michigan continue to be overwhelmed.

UPDATE -- March 26, 2020: Michigan coronavirus cases total 2,856; Death toll rises to 60

Dr. McGeorge said our ability to model the trajectory of this pandemic is based on what we’ve seen in other countries, as well as a number of assumptions. It’s a prediction, but just like in weather forecasting, things can change -- hopefully for the better, in this case.

This isn’t meant to be a precise prediction because we’re using rough estimates, but hopefully it will be close enough to convey the point.

What happened in China

Let’s start by looking at what happened in China, which began its COVID-19 epidemic at the start of the year.

READ: Michigan has new reporting system for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing data

China’s case reports started picking up in mid-January. By mid-February, about four weeks later, their cases peaked.

Since then, in the following four weeks, the cases have steadily decreased.

What happened in Italy

Now, let’s consider Italy. The country’s cases started picking up around the end of February. About four weeks later, Italy’s cases rose above China’s count.

In the United States, cases started picking up after the first week of March. About three weeks later, we’re right where Italy is. Remember, this is in terms of total cases, and the U.S. has a much larger population than Italy.

What to expect in US

Here’s the no-man’s land of predictions: We don’t know how long the U.S. curve will continue its upward trajectory.

If we follow a similar trend as China, we could see a peak in the next few weeks and then a decrease over the following four weeks.

But it’s important to know things in the U.S. are very different than in Italy or China. In particular, every state is going to have a different start and end point to its curve, so we might see a more sustained case count in the nation as a whole while some states see a recovery.

Either way, being optimistic and using China’s overall curve, we’re probably looking at another six or more weeks before we are past the peak and into a significant decrease.


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