Sonoma County has biggest one-day jump in coronavirus cases; peak expected in late May or early June
Sonoma County disclosed 16 new cases of coronavirus Wednesday, the largest single-day increase since the pandemic began, as the county's top public health officer said she expects COVID-19 cases to peak locally between May 28 and June 2.
That range of dates, a period when up to 1,500 residents could be hospitalized simultaneously with the respiratory disease caused by the virus, is based on preliminary modeling and Public Health Officer Sundari Mase cautioned she “would feel incredibly inaccurate in trying to predict a specific date” when the pandemic would strike hardest.
“We'll probably see our peak maybe two to four weeks later than those counties,” Mase said Wednesday in a media conference call.
With the 16 new cases, 83 people in Sonoma County have COVID-19 and 52 have recovered. A man in his 60s died last month from complications of the illness. The tallies are almost certainly an undercount because of testing shortages and many people carrying the virus are likely without symptoms.
Earlier this week, Mase did a rough calculation of the number of ultimate total of COVID-19 cases in the county. That figure, 7,500, was derived from current county data that shows about 1 in 5 confirmed coronavirus cases results in a hospitalization.
Though Mase expressed confidence in the impacts of sheltering in place, tracing contacts of people infected with COVID-19 and proper social distancing, she floated the idea of elevating the current recommendation to cover one's face when out in public to the level of a mandate.
“We are going to revisit the idea of facial coverings in terms of whether that should be more of an order rather than a guidance,” Mase said.
On Wednesday, Mase said the county's preliminary modeling does not show how many of the 1,500 people expected to be hospitalized at the local peak of the epidemic will require treatment in an intensive care unit or will need ventilators. She said the first phase of modeling is too rudimentary to show how many will die.
“That's what our modeler is working on right now,” she said. “I asked the team to specifically look at the difference in acuity … ICU beds versus med/surge beds versus a need for ventilation in an ICU setting. So we'll have those data I think soon.”
When asked during the press conference how long after the peak the shelter in place order would be extended, Mase said it depends on “what that curve looks like for our outbreak.” She said public health workers will be closely tracking the decline of the outbreak, both in terms of fewer hospitalizations and cases over a period of time.
“Again, it doesn't mean shelter-in-place has to be in for a very long time,” she said. “What it means is that we need to look at the impact of these other measures that we're putting in place.”
Efforts such at contact tracing, identifying quickly those who have the virus and removing them from the community, and self-isolation are all effective tools reducing the number of cases that occur at a given time.
“I'm hoping even that we might see some modification in that curve that we have as a model with these measures,” she said.
Sonoma County has performed at least 2,915 tests, and has been receiving roughly 200 tests per day. Mase couldn't say how many people would have to be tested on a daily basis to have a better idea how the virus is spreading locally.
She noted that county officials were looking to additional modeling data to determine “what level of testing we'd need to achieve, to have a better idea of the level of infection the community.”
Mase said she hopes the results of the new modeling will be ready by early next week.
“The more data we get, the more we can say about what's going to happen,” she said, adding that “The best case scenario is we don't have a surge at all, but I doubt that (will happen).”
One out of every 6 of the 16,957 confirmed coronavirus patients in California has been hospitalized, and about 40% of those hospitalized, or 1,154, have been placed in an intensive care unit, according to the state Department of Public Health. To date, 20 people in Sonoma County have been hospitalized with COVID-19.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, in a daily briefing broadcast over social media Wednesday, announced that California would buy $1.4 billion worth of personal protective equipment used by hospital workers, allowing the state to buy 200 million masks per month, including 150 million N95 masks coveted by nurses.
The Santa Rosa Fire Department announced Wednesday that an employee in its operations division has tested positive for COVID-19, with at least 10 others testing negative and eight others either quarantined, ill, awaiting test results or waiting to be symptom-free for 72 hours.