Photo: JOSH EDELSON / AFP Via Getty Images
As the coronavirus erupts again in San Francisco, city officials are battling the worst possible outcome: mass infections from the fall, potentially overloading the city’s health care system and dramatically improving the number of deaths in the city.
At a virtual press conference on Thursday, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, Dr. Grant Colfax, confirmed that the number of hospitalized patients with COVID was higher than before, stressing the urgent need for city residents to self-correct in mitigating the spread of COVID. virus. During the last peak in April, 94 people were hospitalized. Six weeks ago, that number dropped to 26. But by the end of July, the number of hospitalizations had jumped to 107. A quarter of them, according to Colfax, were in intensive care.
“In just 10 days this month, we’ve covered 5,000 to 6,000 cases of COVID-19,” he said. “Let me be clear: we are in a big leap of COVID-19. The virus is moving fast and more and more people are getting sick. If this continues at the current rate, which we estimate on average, we will have more than 750 San Francisco in hospital by mid- October and more than 600 deaths from COVID-19 in 2020. [The] the worst case scenario puts us at 2,400 hospitalizations and 1,800 deaths. These scenarios are becoming more likely with each passing day with current trends.
Such figures seem frightening, but at the moment they are still preventable. The city registered 6,423 cases and 58 deaths as of Thursday. Colfax noted that hospitals in San Francisco are not as crowded as in New York, but that “it is extremely sobering that we have reached this point.”
Dr. George Rutherford, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco, mostly agrees with the city’s assessment and current forecasts. While the current R0 score is just north of 1 – significantly lower than a week ago – the figures the city predicts for the near future are likely to still weigh.
“They’ve been accurate in the past,” Rutherford said of forecasts for the next four to six weeks. “As you go further, no one assumes that we use different inputs to make predictions about where things may be, [but] it’s not like having a pool for it or betting on it. They are designed for planning. if [Colfax] puts those numbers in there, plan it. “
City officials are currently working to find the best ways to overcome the jump in hospitalizations. On Thursday, Colfax and District 2 chief Catherine Stephanie announced a 93-person low-severity care center for non-COVID patients to vacate hospital beds for coronavirus cases. An additional floor was previously opened for patients with COVID at St. Francis Memorial Hospital.
As for what could happen later this year, Rutherford is less sure of the city’s estimates. Although the notion that an average of more than 750 people a day can be hospitalized is plausible, he is less certain about the estimated death toll of 600, noting that “it seems a little far.”
“But if this starts to return to nursing homes or if we infect so many young people, we see them spreading in the intensive care unit and in the morgue, it will be very problematic,” he added.
What about these worst-case scenarios? It is still difficult to say. That’s likely to happen, Rutherford says, but the result is far from certain. “It’s a problem with modeling too far,” he says, “you get broad numbers, but you have to plan something.”
All this aside, the future scenario that Rutherford is really worried about is not strictly related to the coronavirus – nor to the flu. “Will it be slow for everyone to get the flu and will we start flooding emergency departments with both people with the flu and people with COVID?”
It’s a scary thought, but he adds that the best way for San Francisco people to prevent the prevailing hospitals is to follow the health department’s recommendations – to do the things that work for them.
“They can stay home when they’re sick, they can avoid going indoors, they can get the flu,” he said. “That’s what they can control.”
And they should follow the advice that Colfax again provided on Thursday: “Please wear a mask. It’s not that hard.”
Alice Pereira is a cultural editor at SFGate. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @alyspereira