California discloses math behind easing stay-at-home order

Full Screen
1 / 5

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

FILE In this Thursday April 9, 2020 file photo California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, discusses the state's response to the coronavirus at a news briefing held at the the Governor's Office of Emergency Services in Rancho Cordova Calif. Ghaly discussed the math behind the state's calculation of when is safe to lift it's stay-at-home order and overnight curfew, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California’s health director on Tuesday revealed the math behind the state's calculation that it was safe to lift all remaining stay-at-home orders, a response to criticism that Gov. Gavin Newsom's administration was hiding key data affecting people's lives and livelihoods.

A half-dozen formulas were used to project that all regions of the state will top 15% capacity in their hospital intensive care units in four weeks, a level the state believes provides adequate cushion for any surges in virus patients. Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley currently have 0% capacity when taking into account both coronavirus cases and other patients, while rural far Northern California is the only one of five regions above the minimal level.

A surge that started in mid-October made California the nation’s COVID epicenter before numbers improved in the new year. Four regions accounting for virtually all the state's nearly 40 million residents were put under the stay-at-home order in December and three remained there until Monday.

At his weekly virtual news briefing, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly displayed a slide showing that for each region the state used data including the weekly average of virus cases, transmission rate, hospitalizations, occupied ICU beds and other metrics to determine future ICU capacity.

The calculations boiled down to “what I’m just going to call a simple math formula," Ghaly said.

Officials double-checked to make sure the data wasn't skewed by reporting delays from last week's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday before deciding that “we could be confident in what is a fairly weighty decision for three major areas and regions of our state," Ghaly said.

David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition that advocates government transparency, applauded Ghaly for sharing the data, “late though it is.”

“The default should always be transparency, barring real legal justification for secrecy," he said.