As the number of coronavirus cases continues to climb, UCSF Health’s Dr. Tung Nguyen shared important information and the latest scientific findings and data compiled to date in regards to COVID-19, which is also known as the coronavirus. 

The overall impact of COVID-19 pandemic is changing daily. During a video conference call on April 17, Nguyen reported there have been 2.1 million COVID-19 infections reported and 150,000 deaths recorded world-wide. The United States alone accounts for a third of the world’s coronavirus infections, with nearly 800,000 cases recorded and as deaths reach more than 42,000, the U.S. as a single country accounts for 25 percent of deaths globally. The number of daily deaths in the U.S. have been decreasing daily since the peak of 2,100 deaths on April 10. 

“The number of infections may have peaked in New York , which is good news,” said Nguyen, an internal medicine specialist and primary care doctor who conducts community-based research investigating health disparities related to subjects including tobacco use, cancer and hepatitis screening rates, nutrition and physical activity levels. “As will be expected, we are getting more reports of COVID-19 clusters in high risk places, such as a homeless shelter in San Francisco where 82 residents and 10 staff tested positive and the news coming out of nursing homes are very distressing with multiple clusters and high numbers of deaths.” 

San Francisco began enforcing face coverings on April 22 after adopting the rule days earlier, to give residents time to prepare their masks. The rule mandates face coverings for people seeking healthcare, shopping at a store, waiting for and on public transit, riding in taxis or rideshares, working essential jobs, and entering government buildings and open facilities. 

Those not wearing face coverings won’t be allowed to go into a business or use public transportation.

Nguyen also went on to describe the differing patterns of infections throughout the country. 

Illustration: Alexis Terrazas

“One item of interest is a genome sequencing study of 84 different COVID isolates [that] shows that there were multiple independent introductions from Europe with some from the U.S. and Canada during the first two weeks of March in New York,” Nguyen said. “So, the pattern of infections in New York is very different from the pattern of infections on the West Coast for example. The spotlight this week is really on South Dakota, whose Governor continues to refuse to implement shelter in place orders. The number of cases in South Dakota has doubled in the last five days to 1,300 cases. Now that sounds like a small number of cases but there are actually only 890,00 South Dakotans, that means that South Dakota has a slightly higher infection rate than New York.”

As of press time, South Dakota has more than 1,600 cases. 

California, Washington and Oregon agreed on a reopening pact, meaning they’ll consult together on how to reopen from the shelter in place orders. The coalition of west coast states follows that of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Some have recommended four metrics be followed regarding, testing, monitoring hospitalization and a sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days. Testing remains a concern with states unable to test everyone that presents symptoms.

Nguyen also cautions the public to be aware of misinformation about treatments for COVID-19. Current studies released are largely inconclusive due to a lack of control groups and concerns around severe side effects and high mortality rates. Currently, there are seven controlled study trials underway that are expected to be completed as soon as the end of April. The FDA has issued 32 warning letters to date to combat false claims regarding treatments. There are also reports of people calling and going door to door offering to sell masks and home testing kits with the goal of obtaining Medicare information. 

“We need to continue to stress that over and over again that there are no proven substances or drugs to prevent or treat COVID so that any such claims should be reported and for people not to give out any vital data such as social security or Medicare numbers to anyone,” said Nguyen.