In the latest sign that the Bay Area shutdown is effectively containing the spread of the coronavirus, Santa Clara County is seeing the rate of new cases gradually stabilize.
Dr. Sara Cody, the county's health officer, said Tuesday that COVID-19 cases in the county are doubling every two weeks, according to the latest counts. In early March, before the county began adopting increasingly stringent measures to mandate social distancing, cases doubled roughly every three days, Cody told the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
"The trend is exactly what we want to see: that we're lengthening the doubling time, we're slowing things down," Cody said. "And this we've been able to do because our community has come together and is reducing their contacts and interactions with each other to the greatest extent possible."
As of Tuesday afternoon, the county had reported 1,285 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 43 deaths, one of which was reported that day. And with various models predicting a surge of patients later this month or in early May, health officials remain cautious about the pandemic's trajectory in the coming weeks, particularly given the absence of widespread testing.
Cody noted that the models that the county has been using to predict the pandemic's spread suggest that the county's case count will range between 2,500 and 12,000 on May 1. Without the social distancing measures, the case count would be about 50,000, she said.
The county's hospitals also remain well below capacity, with 276 coronavirus patients, including 165 in acute care beds and 91 in intensive care beds, according to county data. About 46% of the acute care beds and 30% of ICU beds remain available. View the county's models on projected cases, acute beds at hospitals and doubling time here.
Even with the slowdown, there's been no indication that the stay-at-home measures will be lifted on May 3, when the current order is set to expire. Before the county relaxes the social distancing rules, it would need to make sure that its hospitals are able to "safely treat everyone living in the county with the care that they need, when they need it."
The county also would need to have widespread testing so that anyone who shows symptoms can be tested and, if necessary, isolated. And the region would need to have the ability to conduct "robust case investigation," rapid isolation and some degree of contact tracing.
Cody said that before the county transitions to the next phase, it needs to see a "sustained reduction of cases" over 14 days, the incubation period of COVID-19.
"Even though this is an enormous challenge and even though this has been incredibly confusing and disruptive and chaotic, I think these models show us that we have prevented deaths and we have prevented hospitalizations and we have given our hospitals time to prepare," Cody told the board.
County Executive Jeff Smith and Cody also signaled that social distancing rules won't be entirely lifted for a long time. Smith suggested that of the currently prohibited activities, those that carry a lower risk of infection will likely be looked at first.
"I don't expect that we'll have any sports games until at least Thanksgiving, and we'll be lucky to have them by Thanksgiving," Smith said. "This is not going to be something that's going be easy to do."
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.