Ending the Lockdown – How well did we do?
To bear trials with a calm mind robs misfortune of its strength and burden.
This is, most likely, my last blog about coronavirus. It’s not that the virus has gone away, but because Alameda County will be reopening this Friday for outdoor dining and gathering (and, frankly it’s time to put lockdown in my past). The county health department came under severe pressure to reopen from our local mayors and supervisors, and the inevitable fact that the people are beginning to vote with their feet. With most of our surrounding counties reopening, it is apparent that our total lockdown can no longer work.
I have been following the data closely. In an earlier blog post (read here), I presented two simplified models predicting the number of coronavirus cases in Contra Costa County – a best-case model (assuming lockdown and social distancing) and a worst-case model (no modifications to prevent spread of the virus). I am pleased to announce that coronavirus cases followed my best-case model (model printed in red). Way to go Bay Area!
It still puzzles me that my grossly simplified model has worked better than any of the more sophisticated models at predicting spread of the virus. It shouldn’t have. It was only meant to provide a lower bound for the infection rate. The number of actual cases could never go lower than this threshold. Also, the testing rate was not included in the model. In fact, testing in Contra Costa increased more than tenfold from the start of my forecast. This must mean that the limited testing that has been done to date has picked up most of the active cases in the community. I really don’t see how the shelter in place order could have worked better.
In the week to ten days after the protests began (May 26), we started to see a slight increase in the number of active cases. This has continued through the week after reopening outdoor dining and retail stores on June 5. However, I don’t think this is anything to be alarmed about. Remember, the point of the lockdown was never to decrease the number of total cases, but to slow the new case load to prevent the overwhelming of our hospitals and avoid what happened in much of Italy and parts of China.
As of today, only 22 patients are hospitalized in all of Contra Costa County for the coronavirus. Only a small fraction of these occupy our ICU beds. Even in hard hit Santa Clara County corona patients make up only 10% of ICU cases. In other words, we still have sufficient hospital capacity to handle this uptake in new cases.
So where do we go from here? Communities are getting back to work and enjoying greater access to shops and restaurants. As for us, we are making preparations to safely reopen our winery and distillery for outdoor service. It will be at least a month before indoor tastings can resume, and when they do resume, I think they will have to be by appointment only for awhile.
I look forward to the day when I can greet you at our winery once again. In the meantime, continue to practice social distancing and stay safe.