City of Houston COVID-19 Apex Predictions

Since March end when United States surpassed every country in the world in the number of active, confirmed COVID-19 cases, some of the most critical questions city officials are asking are:

1. When will we experience our apex?

2. At the apex how many people are estimated to have contracted the Coronavirus?

3. Of the infected, what percentage of people will require hospitalization? What percentage will need ventilators?

4. When will the hospitals run out of inventory?

Analyzing publicly available data for major cities in United States provided insights into answering these questions for the City of Houston. Houston is the 4th largest city of the country, so if an outbreak of COVID-19 cases was left uncontrolled, it had the potential to cause as much damage as witnessed in New York City. Although, Houston experienced a delay in aggressively testing, lockdown orders were made early on reducing impact significantly.

The trends in Chicago and NYC, both cities ranking in top 3 highest populated cities of the U.S., indicate an apex near the end of April for both those cities. Houston’s diligent testing lags behind these cities by approximately 10 days. Hence, the City of Houston is expected to experience its apex 10 days after Chicago and NYC does, approximately by the end of first week of May or at the latest the start of second week of May.

Using the data collected for various American cities and their trends of increasing number of positive cases per day, a model was developed and adjusted with the following considerations:

· Assumed moderate social distancing practiced in Houston

· Early lockdown orders placed compared to other major cities

· Houston’s testing frequency

· Lack of public transport unlike NYC and Chicago

· Average recovery rate of 18 days for patients

· Rate of increase in number of cases on average was found to be 28% after initial testing from major cities’ data, doubling in count every ~2–3 days and approaching 20% near peak

An Apex Curve, displayed in Figure 1 was simulated based on this model which predicted ~6% of Houston population to contract COVID-19 at the peak.

Figure 1: Simulated Apex Curve for Houston predicting an apex of first week of May with approximately 6% of Houston population testing positive for COVID-19

The hospitalization rate for Houston is estimated to be the same as the national average, which is that 16% of patients with COVID-19 require hospitalization. Additionally, 4% of those hospitalized are expected to require respiratory ventilation. The average ventilation rate for Chicago and NYC is 3.5%, but a half percent was added as buffer to account for cultural habits; in general, Chicago and NYC is less sedentary compared to Houston.

The current capacity for the hospitals of City of Houston is approximately 6750 beds. Considering the number of cases at apex and the 16% of patients requiring hospitalization, roughly 22,000 hospital beds will be needed at the apex. Based on the simulated Apex Curve in Figure 1, Figure 2 predicts that the hospitals will exceed their capacity of 6750 beds on April 27th.

Figure 2: Hospitals capacity overrun predicted to be April 27th, based on the simulated apex curve and its intersection with the current capacity of ~6750 beds

In summary, Houston’s apex is predicted to be end of first week of May, with an estimated 140,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 which is approximately 6% of Houston population. Of the cased, 16% patients will require hospitalization and 4% will need ventilators. The current hospital beds capacity is ~6750 beds, although at the apex it is anticipated that a total of ~22,000 beds will be needed. Finally, the current hospital bed capacity will be reached by the 27th of April.

A few solutions to alleviate stress off the healthcare system of Houston are:

· Continue to practice social distancing

· Other healthcare related professions that aren’t considered essential such as Dental offices, Physical Therapy clinics, Dermatologists etc. that can donate medical supplies such as masks should contribute

· Set up the additional required beds in a temporary hospital in a large space such as the NRG stadium

· Have emergency medical naval ships parked along the gulf of Mexico to provide additional support to Texas, similar to NYC.

Chirality Research Inc. is a data science start up that analyzes structured, non-structured and real-time data, to provide actionable solutions to help our clients manage their day to day operations or devise a roadmap for their long-term strategies.

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