In the latest state figures released at noon today, Beaver County’s officially diagnosed coronavirus cases reached 44. But that number is inherently inaccurately portraying the true number of cases, which university researchers have estimated will reach 2,000 here by Aug. 1 in a best-case scenario.
The county’s current number, provided by the state Department of Health, includes a rash of cases at the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Brighton Township and small clusters at area companies, including 6 cases at the Eaton Corp. plant in Vanport Township.
The New York Times first reported on the study conducted by Columbia University researchers, who used the newspaper’s database of known cases and Census Bureau transportation data to model how the outbreak could evolve based on what’s known about the virus.
The researchers then calculated estimates for every county in the country.
The newspaper noted that the estimates are inherently uncertain and could change as control measures are undertaken. It also noted that growth is being driven by Americans with mild symptoms who are spreading the virus without being aware they have it, and that the number of undetected cases is possibly 11 times more than has been officially reported.
In Beaver County’s best-case scenario, according to the university researchers, there will be an estimated 2,000 COVID-19 cases here by Aug. 1.
Moderate and worst-case scenario estimations, based on how well people adhere to social distancing and strict government controls, put the figure respectively at 110,000 and 140,000 county infections by the same date. According to the latest census figures, there are 163,929 people in the county.
The Columbia study broke estimates into three categories: Best-case scenario means that severe control measures are being taken to prevent transmission, including strict adherence to social distancing, remote working, closing schools and restaurants and banning large gatherings; moderate-case scenario means some control measures are being taken with partial adherence to social distancing and a patchwork of government restrictions on work, travel and dining out; and the worst-case scenario means there are no control measures being taken.
The Columbia researchers’ model observed the behavior of the outbreak in the United States up until March 13, based on case records compiled by The New York Times, commuting patterns and other data.
Overall, researchers found that even if the country cut its rate of transmission in half, about 650,000 people might become infected in the next two months, the paper reported.
According to Johns Hopkins University, there are currently 143,532 total cases in the country, with 2,572 total U.S. deaths. Today, the state said Pennsylvania has 4,087 official cases, and 49 deaths.
The director of the Network Science Institute at Northeastern University told the New York Times that Columbia’s estimates were in line with his own projections.
Following is the month-by-month Beaver County infection calculation from Columbia for each scenario:
Best: 0%, under 100
Mod: 0%, under 100
Worst: 0%, under 100
0%, under 100
.3 %, 500
1 %, 2,000