As the New York City metro area experiences an alarming surge in cases of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, experts in California are cautiously optimistic that our state’s strategically timed social distancing guidelines and shelter in place regulations may already be working to flatten the curve.
“Flattening the curve” refers to engaging in social distancing to diminish a drastic upswell in viral spread, so as not to overwhelm available medical resources including hospital beds and ventilators. Although flattening the curve cannot make the coronavirus go away, it can save lives by ensuring that (1) less people get sick (2) over a longer period of time, allowing for (3) more efficient and high-value medical care.
Whereas New York is experiencing a fast-rising curve, cities including Boston, Chicago, Detroit, and New Orleans have an immediate opportunity to slow their own spreads. Following California’s example might prove critical in their efforts to do so.
It was 16 days ago when San Francisco Bay Area residents started sheltering in place. Three days later, the whole state followed suit. New York did likewise 2 days after that, but New York City now has 15 times as many people with COVID-19 as the Bay Area does.
Regardless, any optimism should be marked by caution. We still face a major blind spot due to limited testing. As more tests are administered and more results come back, more COVID-19 diagnoses will lift the overall case total. Likewise, experts are working to prepare Californians and all Americans for a major surge of cases over the next 2 weeks. Despite an estimated death rate hovering near 1%, approximately 200,000 Americans could die in this pandemic, according to some top projections.
Santa Clara County, home of Milpitas, has been hit particularly hard, with 956 cases and 32 deaths as of this writing. Residents who do not abide by current shelter in place provisions, which mandate staying home unless attaining or providing essential goods or services such as food or medical care, can be subject to criminal penalties.