Coronavirus pandemic: Is California's 'peak' coming next week? Here's what experts say

As the Central Valley continues to shelter in place amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, there are positive signs that California is beginning to flatten the curve. One of those signs is an updated projection showing California's peak might come sooner than some expected.

Projections from the Institute for Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington initially projected that California would hit its peak in the number of patients coming through the state's hospitals on April 27. A new, updated projection says the peak will now come next week on April 14.

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Dr. Bob Wachter, the chair of the Department of Medicine at UCSF, follows these projections closely. He tweeted about the report, saying the earlier peak is "awfully good" news and a sign "our curve is flat, unambiguously."

"When you look at the peak it's not only when it happens, but how high it is," Dr. Wachter told ABC7 News. "And just as importantly, as a shift in the date, was the number of patients that they're expecting was about half of what they were projecting a few weeks ago."

"So, the experience that we've had has been so much more benign that what we had feared," he added.

While state officials have said California's peak would likely come in May, Dr. Wachter says there are many indications California is on the right track.

"In California, we're doing something that's very, very gradual," he explained, "And so whether the peak is next week or two weeks from now, may not make that much of a difference because our peak is actually quite flat."

Dr. Wachter explained that the reason New York is expected to peak this week, earlier than California, has to do with the number of cases flooding in all at once. The shape of our state's curve, he explained, is different.

"We're going to have a longer course, but a much slower course," he said, "And a much lighter burden than they've experienced there."

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So, what is it going to take for life to resume and get back to normal?

Researchers from the American Enterprise Institute l aid out four benchmarks that state's must meed in order to begin lifting shelter-in-place orders. Those steps include showing a sustained reduction of cases for at least 14 days; that hospitals have the capacity to treat patients safely without crisis standards of care; that authorities are able to treat everyone who has symptoms; and that they have the ability to monitor confirmed cases and trace those infected.

"We get to a new phase, but it's a little bit more nuanced," Dr. Wachter said. "It's like, OK some people can go back to work because they're immune, some people can go back to work because in that community or state they've seen no cases, but if you're in a different state you're not ready to go back to work."

Phase 2, he said, is not exactly back to normal.

"It would be nice if it were back to normal," he said. "It only gets back to normal when the virus is out of the world or everyone is immune to it."

As of Tuesday afternoon, California has over 17,000 COVID-19 cases and 432 deaths , according to latest data from John Hopkins University as seen below.

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