Marin coronavirus testing shows ‘flattening’ spread

Author: Mathew Pera

Date: 4/14/2020

Publication: Marin IJ

A month has passed since Marin County residents were ordered to stay at home, and the county public health officer who issued that order said Monday that the restrictions have been successful in curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

“Just look at the curve,” Dr. Matt Willis, Marin’s top public health official, said Monday in a phone interview from his home. “It’s flat.”

Six new confirmed coronavirus cases were reported Monday in Marin, bringing the county’s cumulative total to 170 since the first case was confirmed on March 9. That’s a far cry from the 26% increase in cases the county reported on March 29, when Marin saw its largest one-day jump in positive test results. The number of cases hit 93 that day — up from 74 the day prior.

“I’m definitely encouraged that the ‘shelter in place’ order had the intended effect of really halting widespread transmission in our community,” said Willis, who began working full time on Monday, from his home, for the first time since he tested positive for the coronavirus more than three weeks ago.

The county does not plan to test people who do not have symptoms prior to lifting the restrictions, Willis said, despite evidence that asymptomatic people can spread the virus to others. He said that even if the ability to test for the virus is improved, there won’t be enough resources to test the entire population.

Using those limited resources on people who don’t have symptoms could prove fruitless, he said, in part because tests are less accurate for asymptomatic people who have the virus. It could also be futile because the tests only determine whether a person currently has the virus, so accurately tracking whether asymptomatic people are carrying the virus would require testing them frequently, he added.

“We definitely don’t have the testing resources to serially test everyone regardless of exposures or symptoms,” Willis said.

Statewide, the total number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow, but modest increases in hospitalizations and patients requiring care in ICU beds have given officials a sense of optimism moving forward, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.

According to the latest data released by the California Department of Public Health, there are now 3,015 patients who have tested positive for coronavirus in hospitals around the state, including 1,178 in intensive care beds.

The number of confirmed cases in the state has increased by 40% over the last seven days, but the number of patients in intensive care has only spiked by 6 percent during the same time frame.

The governor and Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California Health and Human Services, spent time during briefings last week congratulating state residents over their diligence, but also encouraged Californians to continue adhering to the statewide stay-at-home order to ensure progress continues.

“The curve is being bent because of you,” Newsom said.

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