SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - For the first time since shelter-in-place orders went into full effect in March, the Bay Area went two days with no COVID-19 related deaths. The short streak took place Sunday and Monday, possibly signaling success in the battle to stem the spreading disease.
“It appears to be flattening. And I’ve got to say the news that we’ve had no deaths in the last two days is absolutely outstanding,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, a clinical professor emeritus at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health.
Outstanding, but short-lived. Late Tuesday afternoon, the Santa Clara County Health Department disclosed two COVID-related deaths in the past 24 hours. San Mateo County officials said nine people passed in the same time frame and in Alameda County three died.
Dr. Swartzberg, sounding a cautiously optimistic note, said deaths typically come weeks after the initial infection, possibly indicating a decline. He said a two-day break in loss of life is a promising step in the right direction.
“We have to be careful, because two days is a very short period of time to be able to make gross generalizations. But the trend in the Bay Area, overall, has been that it’s flattening,” Swartzberg said.
Swartzberg credits the combination of social distancing, the use of gloves and masks, and shelter-in-place orders, for changing the arch to a flat line. His next worry is a replay of history following the initial wave of the Spanish Influenza in the Spring of 1918.
“It was such a disaster, that all the other cities in the United States, could see it coming. And they started to move to social distancing,” said Stony Brook University professor and historian Dr. Nancy Tomes on April 24.
The pandemic returned in the fall of that year, with far more deadly consequences. Swartzberg fears the same could happen again if the push to reopen society progresses too quickly, and by summer’s end, people become lax on mitigation techniques that have become second nature.
“By October, we could see a disaster, just like 1918,” said Swartzberg.
The linchpin according to Swartzberg is robust testing of all residents to see who is and is not positive for the virus. That won’t happen in Santa Clara County until June. But it may be the best way to determine if the curve is really flattening.