The coronavirus has killed more than 400 Californians among more than 15,000 infections, with both of those totals continuing to grow, but leaders and health experts say the state's early stay-home mandate and adherence to social distancing guidelines are working -- the pandemic's growth curve is becoming flatter.
By design, a flatter growth curve means a later peak. While that buys time for the state to prepare tens of thousands of surge-capacity hospital beds, and to procure ventilators for severe patients and personal protective equipment for medical workers, it also likely means a longer timeline for the statewide shutdown.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday said state officials currently expect infection totals to peak some time in mid or late May.
"It's bending, but it's also stretching," Newsom said.
Health experts have estimated that strict social distancing guidelines and stay-home mandates, such as California's which went into effect March 19, will need to stay in place for about a month to six weeks after the state's peak in new cases. Relax those guidelines too soon and the outbreak could simply start back up again.
That means, given the state's current projections, that nonessential businesses could remain shuttered and gatherings banned through late June or early July, but the timeline remains variable and Newsom has made no promises for when public life might be able to reopen.
Sacramento County on Tuesday officially extended its own stay-home mandate through at least May 1, adding even tighter restrictions on some activities while providing a few new exemptions or adjustments, such as for funerals.
As of Tuesday evening, California had recorded at least 17,361 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 432 coronavirus deaths, according to a Sacramento Bee survey of figures released independently by county public health departments.
About 2,600 confirmed COVID-19 patients and 2,800 suspected patients were hospitalized statewide as of Tuesday. As of now, hospitals are not yet overwhelmed by patients, and the state has ventilators for everyone who needs one, officials said at Tuesday's briefing.
The United States on Wednesday surpassed 400,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the highly contagious coronavirus, and nearly 13,000 have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The global total is closing in on 1.5 million infections, and more than 83,000 fatalities have been reported.
Hospitals express supply concerns in statewide survey
Approximately one out of 10 hospitals across California by the second week of March said they were already gravely concerned about their supply of N95 masks being "exhausted," according to a California Department of Public Health survey obtained by The Bee obtained through a public records request. Several said at that time they had only enough for the next few days.
Officials were asked how long their cache of equipment would last. The survey asked about their ventilator supply, and requested officials grade on a one-to-five scale their supply of masks, gloves, and gowns for the next eight weeks. A "five" signaled the least concern, while a "one" meant a facility had "exhausted" its options.
Some 300 hospitals that responded to the voluntary survey disclosed their assessment of existing supplies and outlined concerns they had about the looming crisis. At the time of the survey, only about 160 had been infected and two people had died.
In Sacramento, Sutter Medical Center said staff reportedly had exhausted supply options on masks, gowns and ventilators. Face shields and gloves, the hospital said, had no supply chain, were being reused and were in need of replacing, resulting in a "two" on the scale.
Renee Altaffer, a trauma and intensive care nurse and union leader at Sutter Roseville Medical Center, said the hospital had been discussing shortages since February.
"The management and some of the physicians were going around, 'Nobody can wear masks anymore. Unless you're actively taking care of someone who is infected, you can't just walk around wearing a mask.' " Altaffer said.
Northern California hospital approved to test antiviral drug
A North Coast hospital is testing an experimental drug that UC Davis doctors and researchers say saved the life of the Solano County woman who was the first U.S. citizen known to have contracted COVID-19 through community spread.
St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka has joined two national clinical trials of the antiviral drug Remdesivir to treat moderate and severe cases of COVID-19, St. Joseph officials announced Tuesday in the Times-Standard, a Eureka-based newspaper.
Dr. Roberta Luskin-Hawk, an infectious disease physician, worked with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director and point person in the White House's response to the pandemic, during the AIDS epidemic, St. Joseph officials said in their statement to the Times-Standard.
"The main goal of the trial is to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of the medication," Luskin-Hawk said. "We are incredibly fortunate to have the local expertise in Humboldt to facilitate the trials."
Mental health concerns, calls to suicide hotlines rise
Two high school students in Sacramento's Natomas area, a boy and a girl, recently took their lives in separate incidents, administrators learned earlier this week.
Both were high school students. One attended a school in Natomas Unified School District and the went to a school Twin Rivers Unified school, said Natomas Unified superintendent Chris Evans.
The reasons for each were unknown, but Evans and community leaders including Sacramento City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby said the recent deaths reflect the need for more widespread help and greater resources available to local youth amid the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing shutdown, which has closed school campuses.
Calls to suicide hotlines have increased considerably during the coronavirus pandemic.
WellSpace Health's Sacramento offices answered 4,713 suicide and crisis calls from across the state in March, compared to 3,375 calls in February. Last year, the crisis line averaged 3,350 suicide prevention calls per month.
Calls from Sacramento increased at a similar rate, and about 9 percent of the callers mentioned the coronavirus.
"Home is not an equal space. School is an equal space. School is safe for everyone," Ashby told The Bee earlier this week. "Everyone is welcome, and it doesn't matter what's going on in life. But school is out and it's going to be hard on a lot of people.
"Work in general for most of us is a safe place. Home is not. We can't change that. I can't just walk inside people's homes and get them out of domestic violence, but we can remind people that are feeling powerless that there are resources. Reach out to somebody. That's why it's important that churches stay open online, and why it's so important to talk about the future."
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides confidential assistance to anyone in crisis and their loved ones through a live chat and free 24-hour hotline: 800-273-8255. WellSpace Health operates the Sacramento region's 24-hour hotline: 916-368-3111 or text HOPE to 916-668-4226.
Latest Sacramento-area numbers: 26 dead, hundreds of cases confirmed
As of early Wednesday, the four-county Sacramento region had reported a total of 724 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 26 fatalities.
Sacramento County reports 525 confirmed cases and 21 deaths. Health officials provided the most recent update at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday.
Placer County reports 115 confirmed cases and three deaths, last updated Tuesday afternoon.
Yolo County reports 56 confirmed cases and two deaths, last updated at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
El Dorado County reports 28 cases and no deaths, last updated 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Of Sacramento County's 21 deaths, 12 have come in the city of Sacramento, three in Elk Grove, one in Citrus Heights and three in unincorporated territory. Locations have not been confirmed by health officials for the remaining two fatalities, the county said in a news release.
The county this week released data and a map breaking down infection totals, but not deaths, by ZIP code for each that had at least five confirmed COVID-19 cases.
World totals: Nearly 1.5 million infected, 83,000 dead
The global total of confirmed cases is on pace to eclipse 1.5 million Wednesday. The U.S. has 400,000 of those cases, and Spain, Italy, France and Germany each had between 100,000 and 150,000 confirmed infections.
The death total has climbed above 83,000 worldwide. Italy has reported the most deaths at 17,000, followed by Spain at just over 14,500, the United States at nearly 13,000, France at 10,000 and the United Kingdom at 6,000.
Within the United States, New York remains the COVID-19 epicenter: the state had seen 140,000 cases and almost 5,500 fatalities of early Wednesday, both more than one-third of the U.S. total. New York City alone has reported more than 4,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.
More than 1,200 have died in New Jersey among 44,000 confirmed cases, and almost 850 are dead in Michigan, where 19,000 cases have been reported. Nearly 600 have died in Louisiana among 16,000 confirmed infections.
What is COVID-19? How is the coronavirus spread?
Coronavirus is spread through contact between people within 6 feet of each other, especially through coughing and sneezing that expels respiratory droplets that land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. The CDC says it's possible to catch the disease COVID-19 by touching something that has the virus on it, and then touching your own face, "but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads."
Symptoms of the virus that causes COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath, which may occur two days to two weeks after exposure. Most develop only mild symptoms, but some people develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal. The disease is especially dangerous to the elderly and others with weaker immune systems.
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