To prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed, states should focus on preventing the spread of COVID-19 at high-risk sites, such as nursing homes, and in high-risk localities, the COVID-19 Policy Alliance—a group of experts brought together by two professors at the MIT Sloan School of Management—said in a presentation released today.
The Alliance also put online a set of data analytic tools to enable states to identify the highest risk facilities and localities—those with clusters of individuals over 65 or with relevant health issues.
The Alliance analysis indicates that one of the factors possibly leading to the high fatality rate in Italy was that sick people from areas with concentrations of high-risk individuals overwhelmed hospitals, creating a domino effect that led to skyrocketing death rates. The Alliance has developed tools to identify institutions and counties in every state in the U.S. that have the same characteristics as the points in Italy that put its health care system into a tailspin.
For example, the data tools not only show where nursing homes are and how many people reside in them, but show which nursing homes have had the most problems previously with infections. For counties, the tools show not only areas with high numbers of elderly, but also those with high numbers of individuals of all ages suffering from diabetes, obesity and other conditions that create COVID-19 risk.
A 15-minute webinar describing the Alliance’s tools and recommendations for U.S. federal, state and local policymakers is here. The webinar expands on a slide deck that lays out the analysis and guidance.
The COVID-19 Policy Alliance was launched on March 11 by Professors Simon Johnson, the Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship, and Retsef Levi, the J. Spencer Standish Professor of Operations Management. They pulled together a team of experts from across MIT and elsewhere to analyze the available data on the pandemic. The tools will be updated as more data and analysis are available.
Levi said, “We want to help states make data-based decisions that can save lives. Focusing on the sites and areas that are most likely to lead hospitals to crash is key.”
Johnson said, “Hospitals are a critical line of defense in the ongoing battle against COVID-19. We must focus now on preventing our world-renowned hospital systems from collapsing.”