Two weeks after San Francisco issued the country’s first shelter-in-place order for residents to prevent spread of the novel coronavirus, hospital emergency rooms throughout the region appear to be seeing the early effects.
“The surge we have been anticipating has not yet come,” Dr. Jahan Fahimi, an emergency physician and medical director at the University of California, San Francisco, told CNN. “We’re all kind of together holding our breaths.”
As of Monday morning, the city reported a total of 374 confirmed infections and six deaths from the coronavirus. While the availability of testing is still much lower than officials would like, the modest daily count compared to other major urban centers may be an encouraging sign that the early aggressive action in the country’s second most densely populated city is having its intended effect.
“We have already made a difference in saving lives,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said during a news conference Monday, though she and other officials repeatedly cautioned that US communities are still in the early stages of the battle against the virus.
“We’re watching the data very carefully,” added Dr. Grant Colfax, the city’s public health director, cautioning that the numbers could still explode rapidly.
But that sense of hope has not necessarily reached Los Angeles County where hospitals are seeing a steady increase in the number of patients.
Close to 2,500 people are confirmed to have been infected with the coronavirus in the county, with 342 new cases reported in the past two days.
Dr. Armand Dorian, the chief medical officer at the University of Southern California Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale said while they saw a lull in coronavirus cases over the weekend, “We were like, ‘maybe there is something there.’ But honestly, I would be very, very cautious because I really think we are at the beginning of the uptick.”
Dorian cautioned that the virus “is a development that is going to be coming in waves or mini waves. The key is just being so staunch, keeping everybody home for the next couple of weeks to make sure we don’t miss this opportunity. And this is not disappearing, it’s going to be here for the rest of our lives.”
Across town at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, doctors expressed more optimism in the early efforts.
“We are cautiously hopeful that there has been a flattening of the steep curve because we have not seen the exponential rise of traffic coming in,” said Dr. Anish Mahajan, the hospital’s chief medical officer, referring to the rate of new transmissions.
Harbor-UCLA has seen a steady rise in coronavirus patients in recent days, increasing from 12 patients on Thursday to 35 on Monday.
“And that may be because of the stay at home order,” Mahajan said. “But it’s far too premature to say because we have done such little testing.
At a press conference Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom was asked if officials were beginning to see a flattening of the curve of coronavirus patients.
“We’re in middle of this. It would be too easy to say what has or has not worked,” Newsom said. “The stay home effort has bought us time to prepare.”