In mid-July, a surge of Covid-19 hospitalizations was forecast. It hasn’t happened

On July 17th, the Mankato Free Press reported:

“It’s extremely likely” that Minnesota will see hospitalizations and intensive care cases on the upswing as soon as next week, Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, told reporters Friday.

Ehresmann was proved right. In the seven days up to and including July 17th, an average of 135 Minnesotans had needed non-ICU hospitalization for Covid-19 and 112 had needed intensive care (ICU) treatment. For July 31st, those numbers had risen to 161 and 151 respectively. The forecast surge of hospitalizations was upon us.

And then it stopped. In the seven days up to and including today, an average of 154 Minnesotans needed non-ICU hospitalization for Covid-19 and 148 have needed ICU treatment. As Figure 1 shows, since July 31st, the number of ICU patients has plateaued. Much the same, with greater volatility, can be said for non-ICU hospitalizations too.

Figure 1: Minnesota’s Covid-19 hospitalizations

Source: Minnesota Department of Health

This is good news. When he issued his stay-at-home order (SHO) on March 25th, Gov. Walz said that it was already impossible to lessen the number of Minnesotans who will become infected with Covid-19. The point of the SHO, he said, was to ‘flatten the curve’, pushing down the peak of infections by slowing the spread of the virus so that the health system’s ability to cope would not be overwhelmed: “The thing that Minnesota is going to do is ensure if you need an ICU, it’s there.”

The state has succeeded in this. On April 29th, Gov. Walz announced:

“I today can comfortably tell you that, when we hit our peak — and it’s still projected to be about a month away — if you need an ICU bed and you need a ventilator, you will get it in Minnesota.”

At that time, Version 2 of the state’s infamous model forecast a peak of 3,700 Minnesotans needing ICU treatment for Covid-19 on July 13th. Version 3 forecast a peak of 3,397 on June 29th. In fact, the peak – so far – came on May 30th with 263 Minnesotans needing ICU treatment. And now, Minnesota has 1,049 ICU beds out of 1,222 in use with a capacity of 2,182 at 72 hours notice.

Covid-19 is still with us, as are many other diseases, but the emergency phase of the pandemic – at least in Minnesota – appears to be over.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.