The number of COVID-19 patients in an intensive care unit bed in the Bay Area declined for the fourth day in a row on Saturday, according to data reported to the California Department of Public Health by individual counties.
The 179 patients in the ICU in the five-county Bay Area are down from a peak of 199 on Wednesday and are the lowest since Monday, when comprehensive ICU and hospitalization data from the state first became available. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations ticked up slightly from Friday but at 427 are still down about 4 percent from a peak of 445 on Wednesday. The number of total cases in the Bay Area increased by 133 to a total of 4,329, and three new deaths brought the total to 116.
Dr. Arthur Reingold, division head of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California Berkeley, said he hadn’t seen the latest data on COVID-19 patient data but the decline lines up with his expectations.
“That’s certainly what we hope and believe may be happening, that at least in the Bay Area, some counties in the Bay Area are beginning to see the results of shelter in place and social distancing,” Reingold said.
Hospitalizations and the number of patients in ICU are a somewhat more reliable measure of the spread of the virus because they’re not as dependent on the availability of testing, he said. Looking at the number of new cases can also obscure the presence of asymptomatic patients or those who simply stay home and ride out the disease without getting a test. The tradeoff, Reingold said, is that hospitalization data is usually a few weeks behind where we actually are.
“Even as transmission of the virus declines, we wouldn’t expect really a decline in hospitalizations until at least several weeks after that, so I think most of us are cautiously optimistic,” he said. “Most of us will feel better if we see another week or two of this trend.”
San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara have seen the bulk of the decline, with their combined 117 ICU patients down significantly from a peak of 139 on Wednesday. Santa Clara County had 99 patients hospitalized with acute COVID-19 cases, down significantly from 189 patients the day before, according to the county’s public health website.
In San Francisco, which also publishes more extensive hospitalization data on its own health department website, the 30 patients in an ICU bed on Thursday were the fewest since March 31. And both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties reported roughly three-quarters of their ventilators were available — 665 devices between the two jurisdictions.
The trend is not as clear for Contra Costa and Alameda counties, where their combined 62 ICU patients are up slightly since Wednesday, where there were 60 ICU patients. The number of hospitalized patients is also up in the two East Bay counties, even as they declined in the rest of the Bay Area.
Gov. Gavin Newsom noted a similar statewide trend during his regular news conference on Thursday, saying that the number of patients in an ICU had declined by 1.9 percent, to 1,132.
“One data point is not a trend,” Newsom said. “I caution anybody to read too much into that one point of data. But nonetheless, it is encouraging and it just reinforces all of the work you are doing to practice physical distancing.”
That short-lived decline was reversed the next day, and the state currently has 1,145 COVID-19 patients in ICU, nearly half of them in Los Angeles County.