Mortality Rates – Los Angeles County and San Francisco

One (semi) reasonable critique of using case rates to assess suitability for reopening is that with increased testing capacity, we are now identifying mild cases that are less likely to impact our medical system.

“The easiest thing to look at is case counts, which is not a perfect metric since you have to factor in increased testing,” UCSF epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford told SFGATE. “We’re finding more asymptomatic cases now, so it’s not exactly comparable to March and April, when most detected cases were symptomatic. Now in May and June, we’re catching more asymptomatic cases so it can be hard to interpret since we’re finding more infections.”

I don’t entirely agree with Dr. Rutherford (although he has undergraduate degrees in Classics, History and Chemistry so I will tread carefully). My feeling is that increasing cases will lead to more illnesses, more hospitalizations, more ICU cases and more deaths. Perhaps my thinking is overly simplistic.

Nevertheless, the mortality rate comparison between Los Angeles and San Francisco is striking. Last week, San Francisco dropped their mortality rate to 0! While Los Angeles has been in fairly steady decline since late April (with the exception of one upwards blip the week of 5/29/2020), we still have mortality rates that far exceed those seen in San Francisco.

For Los Angeles to put itself in the same reopening scheme as San Francisco is simply not supported no matter the metric you choose.

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