CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS

STOCKTON — Based on projection models created by the University of Washington over the weekend, California may see a peak number of coronavirus cases by April 24.

But San Joaquin County may not see its own peak of confirmed cases until early May, health officials said Tuesday.

Dr. Maggie Park, interim Public Health Officer with San Joaquin County Public Health Services, told the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors Tuesday that it is predicted the region could see the most number of cases around May 11.

In a worst case scenario, as many as 919 people in San Joaquin County could be hospitalized due to coronavirus, and 367 people could be treated at intensive care units. Another 187 people could be treated with ventilators, Park said.

“The numbers are alarming, but they are based on having no mitigation strategy in place,” Park said. “This probably won’t be our reality because the governor has imposed a shelter in place. We’re trying as best we can to social distance, and I’m hoping we’ll be below that prediction.”

Dan Burch, San Joaquin County Emergency Medical Services administrator, said the county is ready to treat those individuals in local hospitals should the anticipated peak come to fruition.

Burch said there are 1,220 licensed beds in hospitals across the county on a regular basis, and 2,232 beds are expected to be available when the surge of cases hits the county.

There are 80 intensive care unit beds available on a regular basis, with 22 available as of Monday, he said.

In addition, there are currently 146 surgical beds available, and Burch said there are  207 ventilators in the county with 168 available.

“When it comes to critical care patients and putting them on ventilators, we’re in pretty good shape,” he said. “I’m pleased with those numbers.”

The predicted number of cases comes on a morning when the county reported 141 confirmed cases and seven deaths related to coronavirus. By the end of Tuesday, there were 151 confirmed cases and eight deaths.

Park said as of Monday, there were 64 residents being treated in county hospitals.

Board chair Kathy Miller asked Park if the number of cases are evenly spread throughout the county, stating the public needs to know if the cases are specific to one community or not.

Park again did not provide cases specific to each city or rural community, but confirmed there has been at least one person from each city that has tested positive for COVID-19.

“The numbers are different from city to city,” she said. “But they are also based on where a person lives, not where they contracted the disease or what hospital they are in. Numbers can be misleading, even if a person’s residence is not in that city where they were tested.”

At previous meetings, Park has explained she hesitates disclosing where confirmed COVID-19 patients reside due to privacy laws. She has also told supervisors that if she were to disclose that a patient were an 85-year-old man residing in a smaller community with a diminutive senior citizen population, residents might discover who that patient is, violating his privacy.

The county has implemented every mitigation strategy possible to get ahead of the prediction curve, Park said, including closing schools, restricting visitors to hospitals and senior housing facilities, as well as instituting its own shelter-in-place order.

However, Park said she feared these methods might not be enough to persuade people to practice social distancing.

“What we’ve done is 100% mitigation,” she said. “As much as we’ve tried to have people shelter in place, people just don’t get it. They’re still going out and having picnics. They’re barbecuing and having birthday parties. It’s frustrating to me.”

Miller said if more information could be released to the public, such as which communities the confirmed cases are being reported from, residents may be more inclined to follow shelter-in-place directives.

“I know it’s hard to balance the release of information, but statistics are showing nationwide that the more information made available to the public, the more likely they are to stay at home,” she said. “There is a percentage of the population that doesn’t think (the virus) is bad here, and they think it’s not going to be bad here.”

Supervisor Chuck Winn, who represents Lodi on the board, said he understood Park’s concerns, but agreed with Miller that as much information about the virus, the county’s response and where cases are located might convince residents to do more to flatten the infection curve.

“Everybody wants to know what is going on, and you all are the experts to provide that information,” he told Burch and Park. “I see the value in getting information out there. Because I think when people know what’s being released or revealed, they step up. They’ll understand and do more.”

Website uses phones to track social distancing

The City of Lodi on Tuesday posted a link on its Facebook page to a website that uses cellular phone data to determine which parts of the country are practicing social distancing more than others.

According to the data tracked, California has received a ‘A’ grade, as residents have decreased their average travel distance by 40%

San Joaquin County, however, had received a ‘D’ grade, as residents have decreased their average distance traveled by 10-20%, according to the site.

Visit covid19/social-distancing-scoreboard to view San Joaquin County statistics, as well as data from around the country.

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