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Behind the Headlines: Impact of the coronavirus

Disease is impacting daily life on the Peninsula, from schools to theaters

With the number of coronavirus cases rising twelvefold in the past week in Santa Clara County, Palo Alto Weekly journalists talk about what public health departments and other organizations are doing to keep the virus from spreading.

Watch the webcast here or listen to the podcast version of the episode here.

Timestamps for video:

(To jump to a specific topic, open the description box below the video in YouTube and click on the timestamp.)

• Santa Clara County cases. (0:40)

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• Impact on schools and youth. (6:02)

• Event cancellations. (8:47)

• Response to xenophobia due to the coronavirus. (11:17)

• Restaurants affected. (12:33)

• Containment strategies and ways to cope. (14:54)

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Timestamps for podcast:

• Santa Clara County cases. (1:05)

• Impact on schools and youth. (6:26)

• Event cancellations. (9:10)

• Response to xenophobia due to the coronavirus. (11:38)

• Restaurants affected. (12:55)

• Containment strategies and ways to cope (15:15)

Read our latest updates on local coronavirus cases here.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by the Almanac, Mountain View Voice and Palo Alto Online here.

Subscribe to the "Behind the Headlines" podcast

We now have a podcast! Listen to Behind the Headlines while you're on the go by downloading free episodes of our new podcast, now available through Apple or Google Play.

Webcasts are posted every Friday afternoon on PaloAltoOnline.com, as well as on Palo Alto Online's YouTube channel, youtube.com/paweekly.

Check out previous weeks' episodes in the "Behind the Headlines" archive.

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Behind the Headlines: Impact of the coronavirus

Disease is impacting daily life on the Peninsula, from schools to theaters

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 4:46 pm

With the number of coronavirus cases rising twelvefold in the past week in Santa Clara County, Palo Alto Weekly journalists talk about what public health departments and other organizations are doing to keep the virus from spreading.

Watch the webcast here or listen to the podcast version of the episode here.

Timestamps for video:

(To jump to a specific topic, open the description box below the video in YouTube and click on the timestamp.)

• Santa Clara County cases. (0:40)

• Impact on schools and youth. (6:02)

• Event cancellations. (8:47)

• Response to xenophobia due to the coronavirus. (11:17)

• Restaurants affected. (12:33)

• Containment strategies and ways to cope. (14:54)

Timestamps for podcast:

• Santa Clara County cases. (1:05)

• Impact on schools and youth. (6:26)

• Event cancellations. (9:10)

• Response to xenophobia due to the coronavirus. (11:38)

• Restaurants affected. (12:55)

• Containment strategies and ways to cope (15:15)

Read our latest updates on local coronavirus cases here.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by the Almanac, Mountain View Voice and Palo Alto Online here.

Subscribe to the "Behind the Headlines" podcast

We now have a podcast! Listen to Behind the Headlines while you're on the go by downloading free episodes of our new podcast, now available through Apple or Google Play.

Webcasts are posted every Friday afternoon on PaloAltoOnline.com, as well as on Palo Alto Online's YouTube channel, youtube.com/paweekly.

Check out previous weeks' episodes in the "Behind the Headlines" archive.

Comments

Fatty no longer
Barron Park
on Mar 7, 2020 at 1:16 pm
Fatty no longer, Barron Park
on Mar 7, 2020 at 1:16 pm
5 people like this

I think Stanford is very responsible for cancelling face to face classes. Either they do this, or they wait until healthy young students, who survive, give it to elderly faculty, who dont.

And it just brings forward the inevitable online teaching. This wont be the last pandemic.


Jennifer
another community
on Mar 8, 2020 at 12:02 pm
Jennifer, another community
on Mar 8, 2020 at 12:02 pm
3 people like this

Yet the one place where we are around more people than anywhere else is work - at least where I work. My profession isn't something I can do from home. I hope they don't cancel my work.


CrescentParkAnon.
Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2020 at 3:03 pm
CrescentParkAnon., Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2020 at 3:03 pm
2 people like this

Can someone explain to me what tests are going to do?
If someone tests negative, it means they do not have the virus at that time. They could get it the next day.
If someone tests positive, there is no therapy yet except expensive anti-virals, and they will tell you to isolate, but by the time you find out they have probably passed it one to others.
I see the main value in testing as to helping the CDC to track and model this disease.
In what way will it help the person who has or doesn't have the disease or the rest of us?


Chris C.
Community Center
on Mar 8, 2020 at 4:19 pm
Chris C., Community Center
on Mar 8, 2020 at 4:19 pm
11 people like this

@CrescentParkAnon -- the purpose of testing is twofold:

a) to see if the patient has another medical condition (such as flu) which is causing their distress, which can be treated.

b) to know if they should isolate the patient and warn all contacts to go into quarantine.

What is the point of quarantine? You are right, it doesn't help the infected person. It may not even decrease the total number of people who eventually get the illness (although, it should). It's main purpose is to slow the rate of transmission down.

The problem: if everyone gets sick all at once, the worst cases will flood the hospitals, the hospitals will run out of beds to treat people, and people will die. If we can slow the progress of COVID-19 down so that people get it more slowly, then we'll have the hospital capacity to treat them (since some folks will get better as others get sick), and more people will survive.

There is a pretty vivid description of how this is failing in Italy right now on Reddit, you can read it here: Web Link


head in sand
Evergreen Park
on Mar 8, 2020 at 4:20 pm
head in sand, Evergreen Park
on Mar 8, 2020 at 4:20 pm
9 people like this

> Can someone explain to me what tests are going to do?

Tell us how bad, or not, the spread is currently. Other countries have used tests strategically as well as tactically. Our Dear Leader doesn't want "his numbers" to go up.

> If someone tests positive

Quarantine. Save lives of others, as well as quality of life.

> If someone tests negative

They can be treated for whatever illness for which they test positive, if any. They also may continue their lives without the concern they would have for society (self-isolation, etc..) rather than not knowing.

[Portion removed.]


CrescentParkAnon.
Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2020 at 5:04 pm
CrescentParkAnon., Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2020 at 5:04 pm
3 people like this

Chris C.
> a) to see if the patient has another medical condition (such as flu) which is causing their distress, which can be treated.

Testing is not the same as providing health care. Having health care would accomplish specialized treatment, but there is now no cure or vaccine. It sounds like the disease will run through elder-care facilities as in WA. A lot of people who are probably prone to getting COVID-19 and spreading it cannot afford health care, they cannot afford to take off work, etc. Those delivering stuff, or handing food or money, janitors, housekeepers, nannies, or those interacting with the public do not have sufficient support and are damned if they do and damned if they do not catch this.

> b) to know if they should isolate the patient and warn all contacts to go into quarantine.

Yes, a positive test will alert people to isolate from others - after they are infected, but by that point they have probably had the disease through as much as a two-week incubation period and have been spreading it to others. From the estimates of the rate of spreading I don't get the impression that it will lower the contagion level to at or below flu levels.

It is the people wealthy enough to travel the world that are bringing this disease to the US, and who will pass it to others on the airplanes, airports, taxis, ride-sharing services, etc ... likely to a lot of people who cannot afford to take time off work and who do not have adequate health care. Once in this population it seems likely to spread at a rapid rate and in fact some doctors have estimated there could be an exponential increase in the numbers of infected.

Of course testing if there was solid good data on where the disease is and who has had it or come in contact with those who do would help, but the parameters of this disease are are working against the effectiveness of testing. Without that there will be a lot of data but uncertainty that just testing will be the factor that allows us to get ahead of this virus.


Jennifer
another community
on Mar 8, 2020 at 5:14 pm
Jennifer, another community
on Mar 8, 2020 at 5:14 pm
4 people like this

If someone tests positive, staying home will keep them from further spreading and infecting others. It's not hard to figure this out.

It's not just wealthy people who travel outside the US. I do, and I've never been wealthy.


CrescentParkAnon.
Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2020 at 7:26 pm
CrescentParkAnon., Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2020 at 7:26 pm
2 people like this

Jennifer:
> If someone tests positive, staying home will keep them from further spreading and infecting others.
> It's not hard to figure this out.

I guess it is hard for some people to understand and put in perspective that YES, after someone has been infected, AND has symptoms, AND assuming their symptoms are bad enough, AND they can afford the time and money to go to the doctors AND they get tested at the doctors AND the test returns a positive ( let's leave out the false positive rate and the false negative rates all tests have ) THAT those who have the disease can at that point then isolate themselves as much as possible so that they may not further infect others in the future. By that time they could have had and been shedding virus for over two weeks and have infected others.

Take into account that there are likely some people who get this virus and it is not a big deal for them. They might get it, not have major symptoms, not think much of it and continue on with their lives. They say children will not be hit by this virus very much, so they could be running around at school or outside and infecting others who will be more affected by the virus.

I don't think it is unreasonable to ask what how the testing can be best put to use and what we can expect from it in terms of stopping this disease.

> It's not just wealthy people who travel outside the US. I do, and I've never been wealthy.

If you live in the Bay Area, pay rent, have health care, have a job where you get sick leave, or can work from home, or get some vacation time I think you are "wealthier" than you might imagine. You may be young enough and well connected enough to know you can spend money and time on international travel because you have a good education or well-off parents or whatever and will not have to worry about it in future. It's not very thoughtful of you to not pick up from the context of my comment that I am not just talking about millionaires and billionaires when I say wealthy. Or maybe you can just picture the many people who do not live paycheck to paycheck.


head in sand
Evergreen Park
on Mar 8, 2020 at 7:52 pm
head in sand, Evergreen Park
on Mar 8, 2020 at 7:52 pm
3 people like this

> It's not just wealthy people who travel outside the US. I do, and I've never been wealthy.

Of the folks who traveled to China 2 months ago, I'd guess a preponderance did so for work. At the very least, supply chain managers, etc..


Chris C.
Community Center
on Mar 8, 2020 at 7:54 pm
Chris C., Community Center
on Mar 8, 2020 at 7:54 pm
1 person likes this

@CrescentParkAnon: you are right, testing is not likely to stop the spread. At this point, I don't think stopping it is the goal.

The goal is to slow down the spread. Because if we can slow the spread enough, then our health care system won't get as overloaded. If our health care system doesn't get as overloaded, fewer people will die.

So I expect that testing is still a valuable tool in fighting this disease. When I read the writing of health care professionals (which I am not), they sill seem to be clamoring for more testing capacity.


Resident
Community Center
on Mar 8, 2020 at 8:41 pm
Resident, Community Center
on Mar 8, 2020 at 8:41 pm
Like this comment

@CrescentParkAnon
You have over parsed your own set of conditions. There are basically two steps, having symptoms (or having been exposed) and then getting tested.
But there are other values to testing. One is to test anyone who came in contact with someone infected by the virus or was at risk of infection due to exposure. If they test positive, they can stay isolated and/or use precautions that minimize risk of transmission to others.
Second. If someone is infected, follow up testing can determine when they are no longer a transmitter, enabling them to return to normal life.
Lastly, epidemiologists and emergency planners are desperate to understand how wide the virus has already spread into the population. As soon as testing is adequately available, they will expand testing beyond people identified at risk.


CrescentParkAnon.
Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2020 at 9:13 pm
CrescentParkAnon., Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2020 at 9:13 pm
2 people like this

I'm not saying or implying there is no value to testing, but to ask what exactly is the value?

For example, suppose someone comes in contact with right now with someone who they believe has coronavirus.
Do they go get tested right away.
What does the test say?
Probably a negative.
Should someone have symptoms before they get tested?
By the time they may have been contagious for a while.
Do they isolate on the chance that maybe they have it.
What if it is the regular flu.
Do they get tested again?
How long and how often, and when do they get a clean bill of health?
How long are they out of commission?
How long are they contagious?
How long before the test shows someone has got it?
What if they cannot afford to miss work, or if they have a family, or they live in a place like a dorm with other people?
What do they do?
What does testing really offer them?
Please note that I am not saying testing is useless.

I can see the main positive benefit of getting tested is so researchers can track how an epidemic spreads in the US.

I feel like I posed a reasonable question and got jumped on because it is not a question people feel comfortable thinking about. It is not so clear cut. Are people more comfortable with Trump's and Pence's nonsense? I'd like to hear from come actual experts leveling with us, but Trump and Pence want everyone to run everything by them.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2020 at 9:20 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2020 at 9:20 pm
Like this comment

First panic buying. Next isolation from others. Then the hermit like existence will lose its novelty value and people will want to resume their lives.

I reckon that various stores have made December like profits and others have made very little. Netflix will have more subscribers. Costco have increased their profits. Theaters and restaurants may have been hard hit, but give it a week and people will want to return to normality.

Will it take a week, 2 weeks? and then return to normal activities.


Resident
Community Center
on Mar 8, 2020 at 9:47 pm
Resident, Community Center
on Mar 8, 2020 at 9:47 pm
Like this comment

@CreacentParkAnon
You are being disputed because you are making an incessant series of specious and unfactual arguments.
You asked for reasons for testing and I provided three that scientists have asserted, but you chose to not acknowledge them.
Epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists have explained the importance of testing. Twisted reasoning that runs counter to best science is counter productive at best and dangerous to the extent that anyone listens to such half baked dribble.


CrescentParkAnon.
Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2020 at 9:50 pm
CrescentParkAnon., Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2020 at 9:50 pm
Like this comment

Resident, you might be a bit over optimistic. I think it all depends on how many stealth cases have gotten into the country since this virus began. For instance those two cases ( is it still two? ) in California that seemed to come from no known contact. Are they still unaccounted for? Did they spread it to anyone else?

I'm just hoping someone can come up with positive proof that this is not some kind of artificial bug from a lab. Second is that I really hope they learn their lesson on how to deal with this kind of thing. And, one thing to notice is if this works differently in countries where they have universal health care than it does here.


CrescentParkAnon.
Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2020 at 9:54 pm
CrescentParkAnon., Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2020 at 9:54 pm
Like this comment

My last comment was directed at Resident a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood.


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2020 at 8:01 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2020 at 8:01 am
1 person likes this

Here is what some experts are saying:

"In the past week, COVID-19 has started to behave a lot like the once-in-a-century pathogen we've been worried about," writes Gates. "I hope it's not that bad, but we should assume that it will be until we know otherwise.”

“When the story is written about U.S. preparedness for this, Chapter 1 will be called ‘Squandered Time.’ Not just on the medical side, but on the preparedness side,” she said. “What were we doing? And now, how do we make up for lost time? It’s not just the kits. It’s why this week we seemed so flat-footed and surprised by things like school closings. School closings were inevitable the second we had the first patients.”

“We’re getting a better sense as the days go by” of the scope of the outbreak in the U.S., Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Unfortunately, that better sense is not encouraging, because we’re seeing community spread.”

"This is the most frightening disease I've ever encountered in my career."

Richard Hatchett, the doctor leading efforts to find a vaccine for coronavirus, says it is much more lethal than normal flu.

“The reason to close schools is actually not to protect kids,” she noted. “Kids are not the ones at risk — the reason to close schools is to protect adults.”

“Kids bringing coronavirus home to their mom maybe, who recently had breast cancer and has had chemotherapy,” Dr. Gounder continued. “Or Grandpa, who is older and in his eighties. That’s why you close schools.”

To that end, Gounder doesn’t actually recommend full closures of schools. Rather, she says a sort of “hybrid option” would be the best approach.


“Maybe in some instances, you don’t fully close the schools,” she described. “You allow whoever wants to come in to come in, and then maybe offer some remote options for kids who want to stay home and whose parents can have them stay home, and they may be doing web-based or remote kind of teaching.”


********
Note that the number of confirmed cases in the US has DOUBLED in the last 24 hours.

That is what happens when you have a widespread virus AND you actually start looking/testing.


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