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Stanford Health Expert: Hospitalization Figures, Not Positive Cases, Best Indicator Of COVID-19

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- Santa Clara County may have seen its largest single-day increase in positive COVID-19 cases, but one Bay Area doctor said Wednesday the number that gives a better sense of what is happening with the pandemic are the hospitalizations.

"It shouldn't be a cause for alarm, in fact, it's totally expected as we increase the amount of testing," said Steven Goodman, Stanford Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine.

On Wednesday, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department reported one additional COVID-19 death, which brought the total number to 17. It also reported 84 new cases of infection, bringing the total to 459 cases and making it the largest single-day increase in the county since it began tracking the numbers.

But Goodman said the increase can easily be explained.

"Just to be clear, we're not testing everybody who's infected right now, so it looks like huge surges in the number of infected people," he said. "It's not, it's surges in testing, so we're still not remotely capturing everybody who's infected, absolutely not."

Instead, Goodman said the number that paints a picture of the virus and what it's doing to the health care system, are the hospitalizations.

In Santa Clara county, hospitalizations stood at 137 on Wednesday compared to 125 the day before.

"The number we really need to be focused on is the number who are seriously ill enough to be hospitalized, that's what we should be focused like a laser on and that number went up about 10 percent between yesterday and today," Goodman said.

"That is not the kind of stratospheric increase that places like New York, Italy or China saw at their peak of their epidemic, so that shows that things are actually not increasing that fast."

In fact, he said that it appears that Santa Clara county is leading the way in reporting hospitalizations. Not every county is reporting those numbers. On Wednesday, the state told KPIX 5 it was working on publishing hospitalizations rates.

"It's also the critical marker of the burden on the health care system, because the health care system and the health care providers whose workload and exposure now is what we have to be quite worried about," Goodman said.

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