SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – As California confronts a rising number of coronavirus cases, state leaders and health officials are increasingly focused on a different metric. They are using the number of people arriving at the hospital.

“The number of hospitalizations, the percentage increase of 13%, intensive care units 10%,” explained California Governor Gavin Newsom. “That is in line with some of our modeling.”

For the second day in a row, the governor zeroed in on those specific numbers.

“I think we want to basically look at things that we can count with some consistency,” says UC Berkeley epidemiologist Art Reingold. “One of them is deaths, and one of them is hospitalizations.”

Reingold says the test results everyone has been following only tell part of the story. When it comes to how many people are infected, the virus itself is probably a more reliable indicator. That is because the percentage of people who get really sick from it is relatively consistent.

“Everything else, numbers of people positive, are really subject to the amount of testing going on, so they’re really hard numbers to interpret,” Reingold says of the numbers. “We think that hospitalizations are a better indicator, yes.”

But the positive test results do give some evidence as to spread, and that is where there is some reason for early, cautious optimism in the Bay Area.

The number of new cases reported Tuesday in Santa Clara County was 30. In San Francisco, the number was 23. But in Los Angeles, there were 548 new confirmed cases, a single-day increase of more than 20 percent.

“California, like other states, is still dealing with a substantial problem,” Reingold says. “We still have a need for healthcare providers, and healthcare provider equipment to protect them.”

With Los Angeles comprising more than half of new cases, Gov. Newsom called California a “nation-state.” Its is population so large, and it is so vast in size, there could two divergent coronavirus outbreaks.

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