Clarification: Solano County COVID-19 curve rising? Or flattening?

By Roger Straw, April 9, 2020

I’m confused.

The Solano County Health department reports out daily Mon-Fri with an excellent accounting of COVID-19 updates.  Here’s a screenshot of their most recent report:

In my daily coverage, I’ve highlighted the daily increase in Total Confirmed Cases (112 above).  I’ve also paid a lot of attention to the dramatic rise in the yellow curve shown in the graph at bottom, center, “Cumulative number of cases on the date reported to Solano Public Health”.

My daily observation has been, “Our coronavirus curve is on a steep uphill climb!  Everyone stay home and be safe!

Here’s the problem: Yesterday our Benicia City Manager, Lorie Tinfow, echoed the Solano County Public Health Officer, Dr. Bela Matyas, beginning her otherwise excellent press release with these words: “As we see the curve of new COVID-19 cases begin to flatten,…”

Stop.  What?  The curve is flattening?  I have been critical of our County Health department, but I trust our Benicia City Manager.  What does she know that I don’t know?

I wrote to Ms. Tinfow pointing out the apparent contradiction, and copied my email to Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, another public official whom I trust.  The Mayor was quick to reply, writing, “I think they might be referring to “active” cases.  The number of cases is increasing for the most part because of delayed test results (up to 12 days).  We have 35 active cases and the hospitalization and ICU rates are not increasing rapidly.  Overall, there is a less than 4% increase in active [cases], hospitalization and ICU.  So the message, I think, is sheltering at home is working and don’t blow its by mingling for Easter and Passover.”

This MIGHT make sense.  I wanted to see for myself, so I created the following chart.  You will notice the red columns track the DAILY CHANGES.There are indeed differences in the daily change rates shown in the columns above.  While total confirmed cases and new cases have been increasing, the change in the daily number of active cases has remained relatively stable.  Similarly, the change in hospitalizations doesn’t vary much from day to day.

So… to clarify, I guess…  Solano County is continuing to see daily increases in the disease among us, but it may not be rising as fast as the little yellow line in the graph would suggest.

The data is still pretty young.  That is, the sample in my chart above only covers a period of just over 2 weeks.  If the experts say the curve is flattening here in Solano County, well, ok.

There are two extremely important take-aways, though:

    1. We have a long way to go – social distancing is incredibly important.  Stay at home!
    2. When any community hits the curve’s apex, it’s far from over.  As one tv doctor put it, the day after the apex is still the second worst day of the crisis!  Be prepared for more cases, and possibly more deaths here in Solano County.