UVA COVID modelers adjust forecast due to omicron "uncertainty"

Posted at 12:28 PM, Jan 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-11 18:15:40-05

NORFOLK, Va. - Researchers at the University of Virginia have been producing forecast models of the COVID-19 picture in Virginia since the start of the pandemic, but have had to make some adjustments due to curve-balls from the omicron variant.

"Most recently with this omicron surge we are seeing unprecedented levels of cases," Bryan Lewis, an associate research professor at UVA's Biocomplexity Institute.

That meant recently adjusting from a more conservative forecast to align with what Virginia is actually seeing.

"It was beyond what we could believe could be possible, but here now we're in the middle of January we're seeing we were sort of too conservative in that we have generated more cases than we anticipated," said Lewis.

Right now, UVA's model predicts a case count peak in the week ending January 23 with nearly 400,000 new cases reported that week, although Lewis cautions predictions weeks out may not be completely precise.

"The main use of it is to say, 'Yes, it's going to go up and it's going to go up fast.' I wouldn't put a lot of money on the exact numbers into the future, but in the near future they've performed quite well," he said.

On Tuesday, Virginia reports nearly 17,000 new cases. Gov. Ralph Northam declared a limited state of emergency on Monday as hospitalizations surge.

Lewis says there is some possible optimism as the rate of infection appears to be slowing down. "It does seem like that straight up angle is sort of twisting a little bit to the side," he said.

Still, he says it could be a long next stretch of the pandemic.

"I think as a public we've all sort of accepted that things are not great and it's hard to distinguish between not great and really bad. I think unfortunately we're moving more towards that really bad situation when you look at it objectively right now," he said.

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