Colorado College Professor projects COVID-19 hospitalizations to double in a week

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COLORADO SPRINGS — Based on current trends, El Paso County can expect thousands of more cases of COVID-19, at least one hundred more hospitalizations, and several deaths in the next week, according to Dr. Phoebe Lostroh.

Lostroh, a professor at Colorado College with a Ph.D. in Microbiology, has been creating forecast models for COVID-19 data for the student-led COVID-19 Reporting Project at the College and has found her projections within 10 percent of what actually occurs.

FOX21 spoke to Lostroh in July during the second wave of the pandemic, and as the county is in the throes of the third wave, her projections have recently underestimated the reality of the virus’ spread.

“Honestly, the numbers are going up so fast that the calculations that I did last weekend are no longer applicable to the current situation,” Lostroh said.

Lostroh makes three projections—low, medium, and high—using rates of increase in the county at correlating stretches during the pandemic. Her current predicament is the rate of increase is at its highest now than at any point since tracking of COVID-19 began in March.

The model expects a worst-case scenario of 3,547 new positive COVID-19 cases next week, though Lostroh expects the actual number to be closer to 4,000.

“But I’d like to focus on; we’re going to have 4,000 cases in the next seven days, and let’s change our behaviors and our policies so that the next prediction—which is even worse than that for the week following—does not have a chance to come through.” Lostroh said, “We can’t change the virus’s behavior, but we can change our own.”

FOX21 spoke to Lostroh before announcing that El Paso County is moving to Safer-at-home Level three restrictions on Friday.

Her projection of hospitalizations will double the current amount of patients in the hospital with COVID-19 if it comes to fruition.

On Tuesday, 120 people were hospitalized with the novel virus (an additional 13 were awaiting test results) with an average of 10 new patients each day. Given the increase in cases, Lostroh expects between 122 and 163 new hospitalized patients next week.

“As hospitalizations increase, we could see that the death rate is going to increase. That has happened in many other communities,” she said.

Her death projections offer a no brighter picture. Currently, 215 deaths from COVID-19 have been recorded since March. Lostroh thinks there could be around 100 more in just the next month.

According to Lostroh, “Any death on that level is going to be very traumatic for the health care workers who are taking care of patients who are very sick and dying and for everyone who maybe is going to know somebody.”

Her hope, however, comes in the news of progress for several COVID-19 vaccines. Several national public health experts have predicted that a vaccine will be available on a limited basis by the end of 2020 and more readily available by Spring 2021.

“So let’s flatten the curve, and we’re going to get to that vaccine. We just go to wait a little bit longer, and I know that we can do it,” said Lostroh.

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