Believe the Data

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Several weeks ago, I was driving back from my Mom’s house after helping out with several chores. It was the first time I had seen her since we started the shelter-in-place. We both live in the same country, which was among the first in the nation to shelter their residents at home (if you are feeling cabin fever, those of us in the counties around the San Francisco Bay have been at this longer). During the drive home, I noticed a lot of people who were not social distancing nor wearing face coverings.

The director of the laboratory where I work sent a message to all employees on Thursday stating that we will be working from home for the foreseeable future, maybe several more months. Being the curious fellow that I am, I started to look around at the data to see what was going on that would cause our director to make this decision? I needed to look no further than the Alameda County daily case rate. Prior to the last few weeks, when the shelter-in-place orders started to be relaxed, April 15th marked the peak when 82 cases were reported in 24 hours. The second highest day was April 3rd with 75 cases. Every other day was below 65 cases per day. The trend was less cases being reported each day. Around May 13th, it is apparent that the trend in the data changed. Then May 20th, 74 cases; May 21st, 82 cases; May 22nd, 81 cases; May 24th, 73 cases; May 28th, 107 cases; May 29th, 70 cases. The curve is trending back up according to the data. No one is reporting that the curve has changed directions.

At first, the media was covering the impact of Covid-19 to our society as a whole. We were all working to flatten the curve, Then it started to switch the story line to the people who felt the authorities were taking away their freedom by forcing them to shelter-in-place. More and more people demanded that the politicians reopen the economy. Even the Governor of California, who said early on that his decisions to reopen California would be based on science, not politics, became a politician once the pressure started to threaten his position. I have spent my entire career working at a national laboratory. The politicians can choose to ignore the scientific data, but in the end, the data will prevail.

The director of the laboratory made his decision based on science. Our health and safety is the priority. I have decided to continue to shelter-in-place until the data shows this pandemic has run its course. I expect Covid-19 to be around for several years, just like the Spanish flu pandemic that started in January 1918 and continued until December 1920.

Yesterday evening we took a walk with Maggie through downtown and the neighborhood. The clouds provided a perfect canvas for a beautiful sunset.