Stanford Researchers Study the Impact of Sheltering in Place

As hospitals in New York City continue flooding with new COVID-19 cases, some regions of the U.S. are experiencing a slowdown in the pandemic. Social distancing, it turns out, actually works. Or at least, it helps researchers localize cases.

In a time when there are so many unknowns, knowing that social isolation drops transmission feels like a win. With no updates on whether Gov. Gavin Newsom’s orders will be lifted anytime soon, stay-at-home mandates are certainly helping Californians weather the COVID-19 storm.

Steve Yadlowsky.

Due to the fast-paced spread of the virus, Stanford researchers are relying on hospital data to track upticks in cases. Some of those researchers, such as PhD candidate Steve Yadlowsky—who specializes in analyzing healthcare data—are taking the lead on creating statistical models.

He says he remains conservatively optimistic when looking at the numbers in Santa Clara County and the Bay Area.

“If the number of hospitalizations stay constant or decrease, it’s a good sign that policies are working,” he tells San Jose Inside.

After Newsom’s announcement that Californians must stay inside except to venture out on essential business, Yadlowsky spearheaded the creation of a statistical model using COVID-19 data up until March 17. He ran models comparing two different scenarios: The real-world ramifications of shelter-in-place vs. no shelter-in-place. That way, researchers could compare what actually happened to what was projected could happen and use that data to understand whether this mandated call to action was in fact, effective.

So, what does the data show so far?

The statistical software isn’t a crystal ball, mind you, but it does offer some insight into the worst-case scenario: What if shelter-in-place had been delayed any longer?

The results are fascinating.

Although it’s too early to answer that question precisely, the data suggest that new hospitalizations will decrease in the coming weeks. On top of that, because Santa Clara County was ahead of the pack in ordering a shut-down, hospitals will be more than able to handle current demand and hopefully provide everyone with the care they need.

The math doesn’t lie.

Now we know that social isolation is the most effective way to decrease transmission. But the data isn’t coming in fast enough. Analytical models that rely on hospital data aren’t always updated in real time. The county’s website was updating with daily information on hospitalizations and deaths up until March 25. Then, it fell silent on the matter.

On Tuesday, the site was back to posting data about hospitalizations in response to public pressure for more transparency. The county also changed its dashboard, but the lag in information left a gap in data analysis for research teams like Yadlowsky.

In the time of COVID-19, however, one problem with tracking data on the pandemic is that much of the transmission of the virus is through people who don’t feel sick.

It can take a week or two for someone infected with COVID-19 to go from infected to needing to go to the hospital. This could lead to an increase in hospital admissions into next week. Meaning people infected around March 17 are only now seeking treatment.

As data continue to roll in, trends will form and we will know more about how shelter-in-place truly changed our lives.

The good news? If the numbers stay where they are, there’s promise that Santa Clara County has set the standard for overcoming the virus together.


  1. “If the number of hospitalizations stay constant or decrease, it’s a good sign that policies are working,”

    A good SIGN that policies are working…..? What kind of data is that??????
    Plus ALL of the statistical models to date for the Virus have been wrong, so why is this one any different?

    Once again, garbage in – garbage out.

    P.S. I am not saying social distancing and shelter in place are not working. I am saying we are not getting any real evidence or proof to support that they are.

    • Or, from now on is this going to be our reaction every time there’s a bug going around? Or even why not make sheltering in place a permanent policy to prevent the transmission of any potential disease? After all it would save lives and isn’t that the only thing that matters?

  2. I am not a crystal ball either, but I do understand the science of the one with the highest intelligence, God. I told you, and you can check back all my comments on the COVID-19, this was going to be big and many are going to die. It is not the end of the world though, but it is simply the beginning of sorrows. All the significant signs started in 2018. God is reordering the world and installing his fear on those that he wants to save from the second death. He gives life and takes it back too. Many will still die all over the world. April is the month of death and resurrection for many. But let’s put theology on the side for now and move to the knowledge created by the mortal beings. Talented researchers had let us knowledge to apply today. This is not the first pandemic. History and knowledge shows the Stay at Home orders have worked and will work, Thus, STAY AT HOME PEOPLE. I told you this is very serious. The lord is angry and fire comes out of his nostrils. He has a treasure in California. For this, he opened the minds of some generally idiot politicians, so they could act quickly. California started the shelter in place just on time. Few county officials not only paid attention to the shelter in place but also the rent and mortgage moratorium. If they did not, not only the Coronavirus cases had went up but also the suicide cases. Thank you Dave Cortese for listening to what the people needed. You will be a new person and politician after this. I may vote for you in November.

  3. If the moon was made of water and you add the blood of all those that will be death by 3:00 AM on its day this month, it would be pink. It is difficult to accept devastation and reality, so denial saves the mind. There will be an end of times being by Revelation or science. Our planet will not last forever. This is not the end though, just the beginning of sorrows. The stay in place in California has to stay by the mid of May and interstate and international travel banned for longer. Those who appreciate their power and money more than their lives and souls should put that all in a big suitcase and travel to the other life. The door is way open. Thus if you do not believe this, volunteer at a hospital without a mask. If you do believe and appreciate your life and the lives of others, STAY AT HOME!

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