Eisenhower Epidemiologist: 300 Deaths have been Potentially Averted in the Coachella Valley

Eisenhower Epidemiologist: 300 Deaths have been Potentially Averted in the Coachella Valley

Daytona Everett

The state will look hard at the data and projections about when it’s safe to reopen. Since the beginning, Eisenhower Health’s epidemiology team has been calculating projections of COVID-19.

That information is disseminated to leaders like Congressman Raul Ruiz. In the beginning, the numbers were grim but lately, research is revealing hundreds of lives have been saved.

“The Coachella Valley was actually trending higher than our worst case scenario in the first two weeks of April.” epidemiologist at Eisenhower health, Patricia Cummings, Phd, MPH, said. “After April 14, we finally started to see a flattening of the curve.”

On April 14, Governor Newsom was asked about the timeline for California reopening at his daily briefing. He replied, “ask me in two weeks”.

Dr. Cummings said thanks to protective measures and physical distancing, since April 14, lives have potentially been saved in the valley.

“From April 14 to yesterday, we potentially have averted about 4 to 5 thousand COVID cases in our valley and about 300 deaths averted potentially,” she said.

Dr. Cummings said peak infection dates depend on public health interventions. If no measures were taken, she projected the peak to be June 16th. With measures in place, that date is moved back, generally speaking.

The models are adjusting everyday but the team has “far greater information now than when they began making calculations”.

Dr. Cummings said the models they use take several factors into account: case fatality rates, WHO information, other countries statistics, Coachella Valley demographics, etc. Eisenhower’s projections are different from Riverside County’s projections.

“They are just one piece of the puzzle that can help decision-makers make informed decisions when we have very limited information,” she said.

So does that information conclude it’s safe to reopen?

“We actually have in the past week, have started to see a little bit of an increase again,” Dr. Cummings said. “So I think that’s really why we need to be careful about how we’re reopening.”

She said with social distancing, additional testing and the correct criteria met at the state level, “we can start reopening a lot of these businesses.”

If no protective measures were taken by the state, this would have been deemed ‘worst case scenario’. Those projections looked far worse than where we are now in the Coachella Valley.

Dr. Cummings emphasizes her team’s projections are brought with a lot of assumptions due to the nature of the virus.

“We projected our peak would be June 16 with about 60,000 active infections, 12,000 of which would require hospitalization and 3,000 of which would require ICU care and about 6,000 cumulative deaths up to that point.”

Luckily, she said physical distancing measures finally started to work and show up in data. 

When asked about the lack of protective measures in Sweden, Dr. Cummings said models there are simply different than here in California.

“Sweden is nowhere near the population that we have here in California,” she said. “Sweden only has about 10 million people, well, that’s the size of L.A. County.”

Eisenhower is set to release graphs with their projections next week. Stay with NBC Palm Springs for more details.

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