PALO ALTO, Calif. - Given that the nation had only 60 reported cases of coronavirus infections one month ago, today's number may make the spread of it unstoppable.
We spoke to an expert who looks into the numbers behind the human tragedies for a researcher’s look at where we really are.
To most of us, the growing numbers are just that: a scary and threatening story of disease and death.
Physician, Dr. Steve Goodman is a renowned Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health at Stanford University. To Goodman, data the media is publishing may be disconcerting because it is not complete enough yet to draw conclusions.
One of the things not being reported well is the raw number of cases and deaths, and the critical issue of hospitalizations, because it's not available.
"That is COVID-19 cases that are serious enough to go into the hospital and of course, ICU admissions and then, finally deaths," said Dr. Goodman.
Raw numbers of cases are unreliable because testing methods differ and who actually gets tested varies wildly.
"So we can't really rely on testing because the more we test, the more we're gonna find and we know, sitting here today, between five, 10 or even 20 times as many people are infected as are being reported with the tests," said the doctor. Only in recent days has the state started gathering and reporting hospitalization data.
However, there are some encouraging signs emerging from the social distancing and home sheltering that began three weeks ago, which the doctor says must continue.
"All the indicators, right now, look like they are starting to bend or trend in the right direction. I would say there's promising signs that we're starting to move towards flattening [the curve]. We're not flattening yet," said Goodman.
And, even in all the deaths nationwide, we've learned a critical fact.
"The vast majority, vast, vast majority, that in fact, 98% of people who die at any age, this is both the old and the young, have underlying conditions. This is heart disease, liver, lung, kidney disease. So this presents a very, very different picture of who is at risk," said Goodman.
So, if one is healthy, without serious underlying conditions, your chances of contracting a serious or deadly case of coronavirus remain very low so long as you and everyone else who can, shelter as mandated.