Santa Clara County distances itself from grim death toll projection made by City of San Jose

By Eric Ting, SFGATE

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  • Santa Clara County Public Health Department Director Dr. Sara Cody speaks during a news conference in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. Photo: Anda Chu, Associated Press

    Santa Clara County Public Health Department Director Dr. Sara Cody speaks during a news conference in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020.

    Santa Clara County Public Health Department Director Dr. Sara Cody speaks during a news conference in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020.

    Photo: Anda Chu, Associated Press

Photo: Anda Chu, Associated Press

Santa Clara County Public Health Department Director Dr. Sara Cody speaks during a news conference in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020.

Santa Clara County Public Health Department Director Dr. Sara Cody speaks during a news conference in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020.

Photo: Anda Chu, Associated Press

San Jose Deputy City Manager Kip Harkness alarmed many on Thursday when he stated that “even in a best-case scenario,” 2,000 people in Santa Clara County will die from coronavirus.

Harkness shared the numbers at a City Council meeting, and stated that the Office of Emergency Management estimates there are 9,000 to 19,000 cases currently active in the county.

“Our models suggest that it could be 25 times higher or more than the number of reported cases,” he said. “That means we have a false sense of security in terms of thinking, ‘Oh, everybody who’s tested, those are the only ones who are infected.’ There are a large number of us walking around who are infected.”

The projections were startling, but the county itself did not comment publicly on the figures until Thursday night, when its public health department appeared to distance itself from the grim forecast with the following brief statement:

“The model shared by the City of San Jose projecting deaths and future case counts of COVID-19 was not produced, reviewed, or vetted by the County of Santa Clara. The County of Santa Clara continues to actively assess the situation and take necessary actions to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in our community and protect those most at risk for severe illness.”

As of Thursday evening, Santa Clara County has 542 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 19 deaths. The county’s first case of the virus was reported in late January, and the county’s first death was March 9.

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Eric Ting is an SFGATE digital reporter. Email: eric.ting@sfgate.com | Twitter:@_ericting

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