At the council meeting this week, it was suggested that Yolo County has flattened its curve. Sorry, but I don’t see it that way. Yolo County’s growth actually seems rather explosive to me.
Going into March 30, we had just 18 cases in Yolo County. In the two weeks since, there have been 70 new cases. And in the last week, the cases have more than doubled, from 39 to 88. Davis has been relatively spared, however, with just 11 cases. West Sacramento (36) and Woodland (34) have been hammered.
One problem—we don’t know what we don’t know. Only 885 people have been tested in Yolo County to date. This is a key point I will get to soon.
I had three key questions for Public Health Official Ron Chapman this week—who is getting sick now, why are they getting sick, and what is the general risk for a person taking reasonable precautions.
Dr. Chapman responded, “If you visit our COVID-19 dashboard, you can filter by area (like Davis) and see breakdowns by age, gender, etc. It’s important to note that not everyone who has COVID-19 has been or was tested, as many people get mild symptoms and there are not enough tests. We should assume that it’s in all of our communities and that we need to stay at home as much as we can and practice social distancing.”
That doesn’t quite answer my question. The dashboard doesn’t help a whole lot because, in part, they don’t have data for a lot of the age groups. Most of the cases they know about are with older people, but they only seem to know the age for 21 of the 88 cases.
Why are people getting sick?
Dr. Chapman says, “People are getting sick a variety of ways, through the community or by travel. Some may get mild symptoms while others may get the more severe symptoms. Anyone can get COVID-19.”
That’s also not that helpful. I want to know whether they getting it because they are going to church when they shouldn’t have, because they are in a high risk profession—or are they sheltering in place and getting it when they go to the store? We don’t seem to have that answer.
Finally, the general risk: “There is still risk for the general public. The best way that people can protect themselves is by staying at home.”
My question is geared toward: if I do my thing and stay at home other than to do a few errands, will I get sick?
He added, “People also need to remember that facial coverings are NOT a replacement for social distancing or staying at home. There is no evidence that wearing a facial covering will prevent you from getting COVID-19.”
That’s a key point. I went to the post office to check mail earlier this week and found a long line of people not spaced six feet apart. That was concerning.
My biggest concern at this point is we have a bunch of scary data. Yolo County is now at 88 cases. California is up to 22,421 with 632 deaths. That is just fifth in absolute numbers, but California is in the middle of the pack in the US in terms of cases per capita. Overall in the US, we are over half a million in cases and over 20,000 in deaths.
Have we peaked? There is some indication that both the cases curve and the death curves are flattening. So that is a good sign.
What worries me is that we may break shelter in place too soon and have a secondary outbreak.
President Trump wants to lift the stay-at-home orders sooner rather than later. But he wants to do it much faster than most public health officials believe is warranted.
Indeed, the New York Times reports: “New federal projections show a spike in infections if shelter in place orders are lifted at 30 days.”
A Fox News poll this week found that 80 percent of voters across the country favor “the federal government announcing a stay at home order for everybody but essential workers.”
The frustrating part of all of this is how unprepared we were for this pandemic. The biggest flaw in everything is that we don’t have rapid testing in place so that we know who has the virus, who is carrying it and the real rate of infection. In short, we are flying blind here.
I understand President Trump wants to get the economy moving—for good reasons and also self-interested ones. But right now that would be foolish (and foolish is perhaps too soft a word). But there is something he can do to hasten the re-opening of the economy: use federal power to make enough testing available.
Until we know two pieces of information—who is infected and who is immune—we really can’t open up the economy without the huge risk of a secondary spike that would devastate the population, overwhelming hospitals and health care systems, and ultimately harming the economy through a secondary and more crippling blow.
But if we can identify and isolate those people who are carrying the virus but not showing symptoms, and those people who are sick but have mild enough symptoms not to require intensive treatment, from the rest of the population—and also identify those who are now immune and who can be more on the front lines, we have a chance to start opening things up.
A reader suggested that we should not put this on the president, but rather put this to our local governments.
They pointed to San Miguel County, which this week put out an announcement of community-wide testing to identify those who have the antibodies.
But I am not sure we can really do this on a county-by-county basis. After all, even if we could test all of Yolo, a huge percentage of folks living in Yolo work in Sacramento or the Bay Area. And a huge percentage of folks who work in Yolo County live in Sacramento.
Without a broader approach to testing, I don’t see how we could even do a limited re-opening of the economy—nor do I see how it would do that much good.
Moreover, even San Miguel County found that their lab was “experiencing the same staffing and supply challenges due to COVID-19 that the entire world faces.”
I do agree with the individual that we need to push for testing, but I think that is going to have to be at the state level and the federal level.
I will say this again—if the President wants to open the economy, then it is incumbent upon him to find a solution to the testing gap. Otherwise, we are simply creating a recipe for a lot of people to die who don’t need to.
—David M. Greenwald reporting