San Jose official: 2,000 could die of coronavirus by June in 'best case' scenario

San Jose's deputy city manager hyppothesized that 2,000 people in Santa Clara County could die of coronavirus by June -- and that's with some of the strictest shelter-in-place orders in the country. 

Kip Harkness delivered this sobering scenario during a city council meeting on Tuesday, saying the projections came from San Jose's office of emergency management.

“Even in the best-case scenario, we were looking at the order — in the next 12 weeks — of 2,000 potential deaths directly from COVID-19,” Harkness said at the meeting, which was put on YouTube.

There are roughly 2 million people in Santa Clara County, which has seen the highest number of coronavirus cases in the Bay Area. As of Wednesday, the county had recorded 452 cases and 19 deaths. 

If measures were to relax a little, Harkness said that deaths could triple to 6,000. Without any social distancing the number could reach as high as 16,000.

Harkness echoed similar types of projections across the country.

In an opinion piece in the New York Times, modeling showed that if a national quarantine lasted 14 days, 126.5 million people could contract the coronavirus across the United States between January and late October. More than 1.3 million people would die under these conditions and 125 million people would recover.

Extend the quarantine for three months, and the modeling showed drastically lower numbers: 476,600 wound contract the virus at the peak on April 8. More than 20,300 people would die under these conditions and 2.1 million people would recover.

San Jose Deputy City Manager Kip Harkness.

Harkness stressed that leaders should not let up on tough quarantine orders.

"We must bend the curve now."

To be fair, Harkness told the council the data is a “rough estimate,” clarifying that Santa Clara County was working on a “much more detailed and robust estimate” itself. “But given the urgency of this situation, we have decided to share these preliminary results in order to drive the action needed to save lives,” he said.

Santa Clara County public health department responded quickly, distancing their office from what Harkness had to say.

 "The model shared by the City of San Jose projecting deaths and future case counts of COVID-19 was not produced, reviewed, or vetted by the County of Santa Clara," the health department put on its website. 

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who defended the model to the Mercury News, said that it was created by city staff using a COVID-19 planning tool created by Professor Richard Neher at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez