What are Alabama’s Covid Models?

As national media continue to report criticisms of state policies on reduced lockdowns of the economy, Alabama has become one of the frequent targets.

Recently increased Covid case numbers coinciding with recent reductions in state government-ordered shutdowns of private business are often cited as being caused by the policy changes, although many other variables could be contributing to the cause of increased cases, including the increase in testing.

Since the governor of Alabama takes her cues on Covid policy directly from the Alabama Department of Public Health, it’s good to know what data the ADPH uses to assess Covid health trends.

According to ADPH official Dr. Karen Landers, whom we asked to name ADPH’s Covid databases and predictive models, the agency “reviews a number of models related to Covid-19. Alabama does not rely on one model for planning regarding its response to Covid-19. Another resource for Alabama is information related to models provided by the CDC. See the link below.” The link is to this CDC data/forecasting page.

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Asked for the names of those other models, Landers replied, “Some models considered in Covid-19, in addition to the models in the CDC reference, include CHIME-19, Regional Hospital Capacity from Harvard, and IHME.”

CHIME is a model specific to hospital capacity planning for Covid-19 that was developed by Penn Medicine. Developers describe it as providing “informed estimates of how many patients will need hospitalization, ICU beds and mechanical ventilation.”

Hospital Referral Regions is also a hospital utilization model, developed by the Harvard Global Health Institute. The data by state is at this page.

The IHME is the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent population health research center at UW Medicine, part of the University of Washington. It is one of the most widely cited databases for Covid-19 information. It makes projections of deaths, infections, testing and hospital resource use.

The IHME was showing 618 total Covid deaths in Alabama on June 1 and projecting 831 by August 1. Earlier projections for August have been both much higher — as high as 7,500 — and much lower — as low as 294. “Why do the numbers keep changing?” is one of the FAQs on the website, which answers that they change projections as soon as new data comes in on case numbers, as well as a host of variables, including “social distancing, changes in mobility and variability in testing.”

This is the link to the IHME’s Alabama projections.

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