On Monday, health experts at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington lowered COVID-19 coronavirus death projections for California substantially from around 1,750 a week ago to 1,483.
In March, the University of Washington initially had 5,000 to 6,000 projected deaths for the states, but due to stay-at-home measures, increased awareness, and social distancing, the estimate has gone down by three-quarters in only a few weeks.
“California over-compensated for this, which isn’t a bad thing,” stated San Francisco-based healthcare expert Dr. Ben Mu. “We gathered together a lot of medical supplies expecting a large, New York-style wave, but it simply didn’t happen. Now we have a lot of extra bed space and medical supplies.”
“I can’t speak to the economic fallout in California, but those measures we implemented were just proven to have saved thousands of lives and prevented tens of thousands more infections. We acted early and it shows.”
“We can’t let up just yet. We still haven’t hit our peak. But at this point things are looking really good. I’ll put it this way. California had over 1,600 projected deaths on Sunday. Today we’re closing in on 1,400. Few other states have seem such large drops like this.”
Due to falling projections and a declining curve, California is now on track to open in May.
“It’s not going to be all at once and it’s not a for sure thing yet, but right now the state and many counties are now projecting below rates where they can reopen,” continued Dr. Mu. “This includes the California Legislature in May [May 4th] and most counties. But as I warned a few officials already, that’s assuming we stay at home until then, keep up standards, and don’t experience any new outbreaks. We’re concerned that a lot of family visits and church services on Easter might give a small spike in two weeks that may alter some dates, but we’ll keep an eye on it.”
Despite political friction, opponents of recent California policies such as President Donald Trump have praised California’s efforts at flattening the coronavirus curve, with many states and even countries modeling their internal response to California’s.
“I have gotten calls from health officials in counties in states like Arkansas and South Dakota on what to do, because they’re growing more concerned,” added Dr. Mu. “One of them even admitted to hating California believe it or not, right to my face on a Skype call. If officials like that are asking for our help, we had to have done something right.”
Despite a lowering coronavirus risk in California, most stay-at-home and essential business orders will stay in place from between two more weeks and a month assuming there is no spike.
Epidemiologists James Enstrom and Jeffrey Klausner say California’s coronavirus response must be guided by the data. “The total number of IHME-projected COVID-19 deaths in California has been reduced by nearly 75 percent from the March 26 estimate of 6,100 to the April 7 estimate of 1,611. Similarly, the projected peak number of hospital beds needed for COVID-19 patients each day has been reduced from 15,000 to 5,000.”