University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Investigating the Trajectory of the COVID-19 Outbreak in Milwaukee County and Projected Effects of Relaxed Distancing

Amin Bemanian, PhD; Kwang Woo Ahn, PhD; Mallory O’Brien, PhD, MS; Darren J. Rausch, MS; Benjamin Weston, MD, MPH; Kirsten M. M. Beyer, PhD, MPH, MS

WMJ. 2020;119(2):84-90.

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Introduction: The coronavirus pandemic has placed enormous stresses on health care systems across the United States and internationally. Predictive modeling has been an important tool for projecting utilization rates and surge planning. As the initial outbreak begins to slow, questions are being raised regarding long-term coronavirus mitigation plans. This paper examines the current status of the coronavirus outbreak in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, and simulates several scenarios where physical distancing measures are removed.

Methods: The outbreak’s doubling time, reproductive numbers at several points, and incidence curve were calculated to assess outbreak progression. Compartmental models were used to estimate the number of hospitalizations and critically ill patients in Milwaukee County if distancing policies were removed.

Results: The compartmental models predict a substantial spike in cases and overwhelming medical resource utilization with an abrupt end to social distancing. Partial reduction in social distancing policies would likely result in a smaller spike, with less severe strain on available medical resources.

Conclusions: Milwaukee County remains very susceptible to a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. Removing physical distancing policies poses significant risks with regard to resource management.

Author Affiliations: Institute for Health and Equity, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wis (Bemanian, Ahn, O’Brien, Beyer); Greenfield Health Department, Greenfield, Wis (Rausch); Department of Emergency Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wis (Weston).
Corresponding Author: Kirsten M. M. Beyer, PhD, MPH, MS, 8701 W Watertown Plank Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53226, phone 414.955.7530; email; ORCID ID 0000-0002-7513-8528.
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank John R. Raymond, Sr., MD, Laura Cassidy, MS, PhD, John Meurer, MD, MBA, Amanda Simanek, PhD, MPH, and Geoffrey Swain, MD, MPH, for their support in the development of this paper.
Funding Support: This research was funded in part by the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
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