The Bay Area reported zero deaths from COVID-19 for two consecutive days this week, the first time that has happened since early March. Fourteen deaths were reported on Tuesday but two days without any fatalities was a hopeful sign as counties begin to reopen.
While there have been deadly clusters in certain communities, the Bay Area’s overall COVID-19 mortality rate currently is among the lowest of major U.S. metropolitan areas. Los Angeles’ mortality rate is nearly four times higher. The national average is five times higher. And New York’s mortality rate is nearly 49 times that of the Bay Area.
As of May 19, there were 390 total deaths confirmed in the Bay Area, or about five deaths per 100,000 people. In New York City, there have been more than 20,000 deaths reported, which translates to 242 deaths per 100,000 people.
Officials have faced challenges in tracking infections from the outset of the pandemic, making any accounting of death rates uncertain. Nonetheless, the chasm between these numbers is profound.
Early, aggressive shelter-in-place orders in the Bay Area appear to have been very effective in curbing the coronvirus’ spread and saving lives. The data show that just a few days delay in issuing such orders may have been a contributing factor to the Bay Area’s outcome, versus what Los Angeles is seeing or, on the other end of the spectrum, what has transpired in New York.
John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert at UC Berkeley, said there are several parameters that can determine an outbreak’s deadliness: competency of medical care, health of the population, and resources available to health care workers. He said the first two don’t seem to be an issue in New York.
Instead, New York’s health care system “became overwhelmed” and “did not have the resources to optimally care for patients,” he said, as evidenced by reports and photos of emergency rooms filled with infected patients. This, Swartzberg believes, is the main reason for the high mortality rate in the country’s densest city. The same can be said for New Orleans and Detroit, which both saw their health care systems overloaded.
UCSF infectious disease expert George Rutherford said New York was also “unlucky” with the high volume of travelers coming from Europe and the emergence of a “superspreader” at the beginning of the outbreak.
A report from ProPublica released earlier this week offers another possible factor in what went right in the Bay Area, and wrong in New York: cooperation between state and local officials. Gov. Gavin Newsom worked closely with San Francisco Mayor London Breed as the Bay Area shut down, whereas the New York governor and New York City mayor, according to ProPublica’s reporting, did not.
Given the possibility of a second wave of infections later this year, understanding what has led to variances in fatality rates is now a crucial question for epidemiologists and officials.
Locally, there haven’t been huge differences in death rates from county to county, but what variances there are may contain important lessons.
Across the Bay Area, the virus has been more deadly in denser, more populous areas. Santa Clara County has reported the most deaths overall, but the county with the highest mortality rate is San Mateo.
The higher rates can partially be attributed to coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes, where high-risk patients live in close quarters. Santa Clara County’s long-term care facility cases currently account for 41% of all deaths in the county. Solano County also saw a recent surge at a nursing home where 11 died.
And the Bay Area has not escaped racial disparities in who’s getting sick and dying from COVID-19. Latino and black people are disproportionately testing positive for, and dying of, the coronavirus in three of the region’s largest counties, according to a Chronicle review of state and county data. In San Francisco, Asian Americans account for half of the COVID-19 fatalities, and local politicians and community organizers are seeking more information on why the Asian community would be at higher risk.
Todd Trumbull designed the graphics in this article.
- What would happen if a 7.1 earthquake shook the San Francisco Bay Area today?
- Trump infrastructure plan fails to impress Bay Area officials
- What it's really like moving from the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles
- Bay Area’s high prices, traffic could spur exodus
- With BART, bridges and highways jammed, ferries’ popularity swells in Bay Area
- Property tax rolls in Bay Area rise 6.6% to $1.8 trillion
How the Bay Area’s coronavirus death rate compares with other U.S. regions have 817 words, post on www.sfchronicle.com at May 20, 2020. This is cached page on Talk Vietnam. If you want remove this page, please contact us.