Bay Area doctors, public health officials report flatter COVID-19 curve

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Bay Area doctors and public health officials have reported a flatter curve, which means they are seeing fewer cases of COVID-19, colloquially known as the coronavirus, than what was previously expected at this point in the pandemic.

On March 17, the city of Berkeley and six Bay Area counties were among the first jurisdictions in the country to implement shelter-in-place measures. Since then, the number of COVID-19 cases in the Bay Area continues to rise, but hospitals in the region are not seeing the same spikes in the number of cases that other parts of the country have experienced.

“It takes various levers to flatten the curve, which means slowing the disease’s transmission. Those include shelter in place, social distancing, and school and work from home,” said Dr. Mary Meyer, Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California regional medical director of disaster preparedness, in a statement. “By going out early and strong, California has pulled all those levers for the greater good.”

Rather than decreasing the number of overall cases, flattening the curve is about lowering the rate at which the disease spreads so hospitals can provide better care to individuals who need medical attention.

The shelter-in-place measures are intended to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed and give scientists and clinical teams more time to develop an effective treatment, according to an open letter from CEO of Sutter Health’s California Pacific Medical Center Warren Browner and Sutter Health’s chief medical officer Stephen Lockhart.

As the coronavirus is dependent on people to spread, it is not only important whether an individual gets sick, but also whether they then transmit the virus to others, according to the letter.

Berkeley City Councilmember Sophie Hahn has seen “overwhelming compliance” to the shelter in place in Berkeley. She said the quick response of Berkeley and the six Bay Area counties can largely be attributed to the area’s public health officials.

“Their job is to make these calls on our behalf, and we certainly have evidence that they are making very good decisions,” Hahn said. “I certainly know that (what is) extremely important is for everybody to continue to obey.”

Hahn said she is concerned that the shelter-in-place measures may have so much initial success that people will be less compliant with the orders, considering the difficulties they impose on economic activity and individuals’ daily routines.

Meyer said people must comply with social distancing measures even when it is difficult because the disease has an impact on other people as well.

“It’s challenging for people in essential businesses, from health care to package delivery, because they need us to keep them safe,” Meyer said in the statement. “Respect their 6 feet — and remember to say thanks.”

Contact Emma Rooholfada at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @erooholfada_dc.