As confirmed cases of COVID-19 surge in other cities in the US, the Bay Area is experiencing an incredibly low rate of new cases by comparison. For example, as of March 30th, New York City has 33,768 confirmed COVID-19 cases while San Francisco has 340 confirmed cases.
We followed up with our UCSF Emergency Room contact; Dr. Nathan Teismann, to ask about current and new COVID-19 cases in his ER, as well as the state of his fellow staff at the hospital, and his colleagues in the greater Bay Area. Dr. Teismann assured us that his ER was still relativity quiet over the weekend, seeing approximately half of the patients it usually sees on a normal weekend. (these figures are consistent with those BAS reported 3.25.20)
Dr Teismann: “Over the weekend, we typically see around 200 patients per day in the ER, and this weekend we saw less than half of that volume, approximately 80-90 people we’re seen on Saturday, about half of those patients came in because of symptoms suspected of being COVID-19.”
When asked about the state of other hospitals in the Bay Area the Doctor replied, “My colleagues at Stanford, as well as at other facilities in San Francisco report much of the same conditions in their hospitals. For now, the rate of new confirmed, infections showing up in Emergency rooms is not unmanageable.”
I asked the doctor if he believed that our early ‘shelter in place policy’ was having an effect, Dr. Teismann replied, “It seems very likely, that the ‘shelter in place’ policy has had a significant, positive effect on containing the spread of COVID-19 in the Bay Area.”
He followed with, “We are obviously not capturing the true prevalence of infected people in the Bay Area, because so many who may have been infected are staying home and therefore will not ever be ‘confirmed’ cases of COVID-19.”
Most of the confirmed cases across the world are confirmed because the patients had severe symptoms, that is why they went to the the hospital in the first place. Since roughly 80% of people with COVID-19 have very mild symptoms, they end up staying home and letting the virus run its course, without adding to the statistics.
The true rate of infections throughout the Bay Area is obviously much higher than can be tested, but severe cases are still low, and as of yet, not growing exponentially like they are in New Orleans or New York.
Sheltering in place, seems to be bending the curve of infections in a major way. Nationally of course, we are not fairing as well. Dr. Teismann was quick to warn me that the ‘top of the curve’ is yet to come. He sent me the projected peak of coronavirus patients from the IHME at the University of Washington, which projects that nationally, April 15th will be the beginning of the peak of hospital bed capacity for COVID-19 patients in the USA.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is an independent population health research center at UW Medicine, part of the University of Washington, see all of there projections by visiting their site.
What does that mean for you? It means that social distancing and staying home is the right thing to do. By staying home, and restricting your contact with others, also known as ‘social distancing’, is having an incredibly positive effect on ‘flattening the curve’. By preventing the spread of COVID-19 you are quite literally saving lives in your community, and although we are far from the end of this pandemic, take heart that the sacrifices you are making by staying home and not becoming infected, are helping our medical professionals deal with this outbreak immensely.
The good news for San Franciscans Businesses in SF started limiting service in the second week of March, and the official order to shutter all non-essential businesses in 6 Bay Area counties, and for citizens to shelter in place was given on March 16th, but by then the majority of workers and businesses had already stopped operations.
As of today, March 30th, it has been over 14 days since large crowds stopped congregating and the circulation of the virus has been greatly impeded. Since most cases of COVID-19 last around 14 days, if we were going to see a massive surge of infections, the odds are we would have seen them by now in our Emergency rooms.
For now, this is good news, we have been incredibly fortunate that our government and business owners acted quickly and decisively to help slow the spread of the virus.
A message from your local healthcare providers Dr Teismann wanted to add that at USCF there has seen an incredible outpouring of kindness, well wishes and donations from the local community. Everything from free meals from local restaurants delivered to the hospital staff, to artwork made by local elementary school students and hung in the hospital break room. There have been phone calls and well-wishes from patients and neighbors to the hospital, and that positive outpouring has had a wonderful and positive effect on healthcare workers.
Stay safe, stay home San Francisco. And if you would like to thank our medical professionals think about joining the sunset applause tonight, and every night, at 7pm. Cheer and applaud from your window or balcony to thank those shouldering the burden during this pandemic!
We will keep publishing updates, and remember, we still have a long way to go.
- If you think you have been exposed to COVID‑19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider for medical advice.