Doctor Whose Prescience Saved Lives Reflects On First Stay-At-Home Order | Rachel Maddow | MSNBC

we must come together to do this and we have done this as a collective of health officers we know we need to do this and we know we need a regional approach we all must do our part to slow the spread of Cova 19 and ensure that our essential services remain intact and open most especially our hospitals and health care facilities that was dr.

Sarah Cody on March 16th as she announced that 7 million Californians would be told to stay home for weeks at least it was the first such order in the United States dr.

Cody and the other health officers in the San Francisco Bay Area acted faster and more decisively than anyone else in the country and as a result they did successfully as they say flatten the curve and hospitals in the Bay Area did remain intact and not get overrun now dr.

Cody and her colleagues are continuing to advance our national understanding of how coronavirus has spread in the US they've just figured out that the earliest known death from the virus in this country was in Santa Clara County three weeks earlier than we previously knew anyone had died from it in the United States joining us now is dr.

Sarah Cody public health officer for Santa Clara County in the great state of California dr.

Cody I imagine that talking on television is the least of your at least favorite part of your job I really appreciate you doing it and being here tonight thank you it's a pleasure to be here I wanted to ask you about the clarity and decisiveness with which you and your colleagues in the Bay Area acted back in in mid-march I didn't know about the idea of shelter-in-place except for an active shooter situation I didn't know that stay at home orders were within the public health toolkit how prepared were you how did you all know to think about these things as options once you started to see the data that worried you in the bay area we we had a number of factors working in our favor and I would say the first is that we have a very collaborative group of health officers from around the Bay Area we've all known each other for a very long time we know each other well and we're accustomed to working together so that's the first thing that was incredibly important the second is is that we live in an area with a lot of academic partners who are continually advising us around you know infectious disease modeling and infectious disease epidemiology and I think the third is that many of us who are health officers in the bay area had previously done a lot of work in communicable disease control so we're really comfortable with communicable disease control and the various strategies that we use to you know basic prevention and control of communicable disease so I think all of those factors not that it was a comfortable action to take but they were sort of helpful in and key to our preparation was there an element of bravery involved or sort of holds her breath and jump feeling about it when you had to make that announcement I went back and watched some of your public statements when you first announced for example restrictions on large gatherings in the county and I felt like I could I felt like I could see you wrestling with the gravity of what you were asking people to confront I was wrestling with the gravity and it was a difficult situation and I I remember on Friday the 13th when we announced that we were going to ban mass gatherings greater than a hundred and I remember that was felt like a enormous ly difficult decision because of how it would impact so many people and restrict so many activities and you know on Friday the 13th I really couldn't even wrap my mind around what we then did on Monday there was a very long weekend with a lot of discussions with fellow health officers and I think we were you know looking at our local data and we were looking at trends around the world and we were listening to our Carl who are infectious disease modelers and it just became clear that we either acted now and created a lot of social and economic disruption or we acted later and still created a lot of social and economic disruption but didn't get the benefit of the early action and so it was enormous ly helpful to do it as a group of trusted colleagues and it did sort of feel like we were all holding hands and jumping so I didn't feel alone I felt like I was doing it with a really solid a really solid group and and that made a big difference well the effectiveness of what you did the way that the Bay Area the the actions that you all took in the Bay Area appear to have grabbed this thing and wrestled it down in terms of how many people would get infected and the pace at which new infections would unfold it does feel particularly to those of us in the rest of the country looking looking I think with an Envy at that the way that you flatten that curve it does this look like an incredibly effective intervention but I wonder now that you have discovered that you actually had coronavirus deaths and you had a parent apparently had community transmission of corona virus even earlier than you previously expected when you look back in that decision now do you wish that you had acted even earlier than you did well what I wish is that we had more information much of this response has felt like we you know well it's it's not unusual in public health to have less information than you want to make decisions so in some ways we're somewhat accustomed to making decisions with some degree of uncertainty but I do remember in early February we were looking at how many cases did we have compared to the country how many persons under investigation did we have compared to the country and compared to our population and even early on it you know the the numbers were small but the trend was it looks like we were having you know a good probability that the virus would be introduced in our community first and so you needed to be ready so we were looking looking looking for signs but we didn't have the capacity to to test it's a document that that the virus was present so now of course in retrospect identifying the corona virus and the woman who died on February 6th you know we were thinking we had to travel associated cases and we were at risk for community transmission but we couldn't see it and you know I we couldn't see it and if we don't have data to show it share to the public also I don't think we could have gotten the public on board with the actions that they have taken since March 16th yeah have there been testing had there been visibility had there been data not only to guide decision-making but to guide public education not only you but everybody around the country could have made better decisions at that time we're still paying for that dr.

sarah cody public health officer for Santa Clara County in Northern California I do think that you and your colleagues have a lot to be proud of I know that you are by no means out of the woods in terms of what you're still contending with but thanks for your leadership and thanks for helping us understand my pleasure thank you so much.

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