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COVID-19 vs. flu numbers in San Diego County

A surge in COVID-19 patients could be coming in April or May.

SAN DIEGO — As the coronavirus pandemic unfolds, some major questions remain unanswered:  How many people will become infected?  When is a surge in cases expected?  Is COVID-19 deadlier than the flu?

Reporters asked hard questions Monday at Governor Gavin Newsom’s media conference on COVID-19.

“I’m curious why you're reluctant to give a peak date and why Californians shouldn't know the date the administration is working off of right now?” said one reporter.

Newsom said he can’t reveal the overall number of COVID-19 infections statewide because testing is limited and his modeling may not be accurate.

“It's a dynamic model and it was radically different, I can assure you, just four or five days ago,” Newsom said.

State and San Diego County officials prefer, instead, to focus on the number of hospital beds that will be needed for COVID-19 patients during an expected surge down the road.

“Based on our models, we project that we will need that towards the second half of the month of May,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency.

A surge in mid-May matches up with modeling released last week by San Diego County officials, showing 7,000 COVID-19 patients in local hospitals by April or May.

RELATED: San Diego flu deaths reach 86, cases winding down

Since 80% of coronavirus cases do not require hospitalization, San Diego County could see approximately 35,000 cases total, and up to 350 deaths by May, the county modeling showed.

Compare those numbers to San Diego County's current flu cases. So far this year, the county has seen 98 flu deaths out of more than 20,000 flu cases, or a 0.5% death rate from the flu.

San Diego county currently has seen seven deaths out 603 COVID-19 cases as of Monday, showing a 1% death rate from COVID-19.

The county said its flu numbers are much more reliable than its coronavirus numbers because flu testing is widespread and the vast majority of COVID-19 patents have not been tested.

“We are still ahead, I believe meaningfully ahead, of the apex that is coming,” said Dr. Nick Yphantides, chief medical officer for San Diego County.

RELATED: VERIFY: A comparison of COVID-19 totals to common causes of deaths leaves out context

RELATED: How does COVID-19 compare to some of history's most deadly pandemics?

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