[BenIndy Editor: The San Francisco Chronicle’s excellent Coronavirus Tracker is jam-packed with good information. The interactive parts of the Tracker don’t work here – some of the links work, but you have to go to the Tracker to see data when you hover over various parts or otherwise interact with the page. – R.S.]
What are the latest developments?
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he will outline a plan on Tuesday for gradually loosening the stay-at-home orders, a plan that will use “science to guide our decision-making, not political pressure.” Newsom recently said the shutdown could last longer than the early May target that President Trump was hoping for in an effort to jumpstart the economy. Earlier Monday, Trump tweeted that the decision to reopen businesses would be his alone, but Newsom, who issued the original orders in California, clearly does not agree. In other news out of Washington, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said during a news briefing that more than 80 million Americans are expected to receive direct deposit payments by Wednesday as part of the COVID-19 relief program.
Snapshot of cases in the Bay Area by county
Is shelter in place working?
There are hopeful signs. Though the case counts keep climbing, they’re not rising so fast as to suggest the regional outbreak is out of control, as it is in New York. The death toll in the Bay Area is mounting, and while that’s sobering news, it’s not increasing faster than anticipated. It’s too early to say whether the regional outbreak will mushroom into the kind of crisis striking New York. Public health authorities warn it may be many more weeks before they can say that sheltering in place saved the Bay Area and the state.
Do we know how many people have been hospitalized?
The most reliable marker of the outbreak is the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19, infectious disease experts say. Those numbers have been rising steadily since March 26 when the California Department of Public Health started reporting statewide counts for the number of people hospitalized and in intensive care units due to the virus. Tracking the number of patients is important because a major goal of sheltering in place is to reduce the spread of the illness and ease the burden on hospitals. Gov. Gavin Newsom has cited the rising ICU numbers as especially troubling in his daily coronavirus briefings.
What are the key data points for understanding the severity of the pandemic?
Reports of people who test positive for the coronavirus are not very reliable markers of the actual spread of disease or the severity of illness in a community because ongoing testing shortages mean most people who are infected are never tested. There are also lags in data being reported, due to long waits — sometimes up to a week — to get results from tests and the frequency with which counties report. Other important signals include the number of people hospitalized, how many people have died and how many people in the community have symptoms. More than 23,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S.
Why are so few people being tested?
Testing has proved a major hurdle, with missteps at federal and state levels hampering the process along the way. California has tested far fewer people per capita than other states, including New York. As testing increases so will the case counts in the Bay Area and the rest of the state. But infectious disease experts say that even as testing becomes more widespread, the counts ultimately should be a good marker of when the outbreak is starting to slow down. Also, quicker tests will be rolled out on a limited basis in the Bay Area.
How does California compare to the rest of the nation?
In the Bay Area, the pace of growth over the past month suggests that this region is doing better than other places. New cases have been roughly tripling every week for the past three weeks. In New York, the new cases have been doubling or tripling every few days.
HAVE MORE QUESTIONS?
We’re answering our readers’ most common questions here. Below you can find even more answers for issues specific to the Bay Area.
- What should I know if I need treatment?
- Will I still be able to get groceries?
- Which restaurants are offering takeout and delivery?
- Can I get sick from touching or eating food?
- I’m out of work. Is anyone hiring?
- What other options do I have if I need financial help?
- Will I get a stimulus check?
- What’s going on with transit?
- I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. Is that normal?
- Is there anything I can do to help?
- I have extra face masks. How can I donate them to a hospital?
- Tell me more about the virus.
- Is it true I can get reinfected?