U.S. Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, on May 7 praised Sacramento area residents for following Sacramento County’s stay-at-home order, and helping to “flatten the curve” against the spreading of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“We can be proud of ourselves in the Sacramento area for really following the stay-at-home order and avoiding the worst of this pandemic,” he said.

“Of the 50 most populous metropolis areas in the United States, Sacramento had the lowest case rate. So, that’s a testimony to all of us, every resident here kind of heeding the public health advice of (county medical officials) and others, staying at home, trying to flatten that curve.”

Bera, who made his comments during at COVID-19 telephone town hall meeting, is also a physician and a former Sacramento County chief medical officer.

The congressman told his listeners that as businesses begin to reopen, it is important to still protect one another against this disease.

“We know the virus will still be out there,” he said. “Instead of shutting the whole thing down, we can actually slow things down.”

While joining Bera in the meeting, Dr. Peter Beilenson, director of Sacramento County’s Department of Health Services, provided statistics on the county’s COVID-19 testing results.

“We have 1,153 cases now (in Sacramento County), 49 deaths, which is a remarkably low number, considering how large we are,” he said. “We’re 1.5 million people.

“We have the lowest death rates, the lowest hospitalization rates and the lowest (intensive care unit) rates in the United States of America.”

As of May 10, Elk Grove had 95 confirmed COVID-19 cases and three deaths related to the virus, according to Sacramento County’s public health department.

Beilenson said that during the past five weeks, Sacramento County has experienced consistent declines in the number of people with COVID-19 in its hospitals.

As of May 7, the county only had 43 patients with the disease in its hospitals.

Beilenson mentioned that many more people are being tested in the county, and that testing is now available by appointment for people who do not show any symptoms of the disease such as having a high fever or a dry cough.

Bera noted that the number of people tested in the county will continue to increase.

“I’m glad that the county is now close to 2,000 tests a day, and is making it available for people who don’t have symptoms to be able to go get tested,” he said.

The reopening of businesses in the county is an incremental process and requires the continued dedication of practicing social distancing, Bera noted.

“We know the physical distancing that we’ve done – staying 6 feet apart has actually worked,” he said. “For those folks that can safely work from home and telecommute and do their jobs from home, the advice is going to be to the extent that if they can, that they continue to work from home.”

Bera said that offices will likely reconfigure their work spaces to avoid having cubicles next to one another.

Furthermore, Bera noted that recommendations to safeguard against COVID-19 will likely be a part of society for the “foreseeable future.”

”Even if you don’t have symptoms, as you go out and you’re close to other people, you should wear a face covering,” he said. “A cloth face covering is effective in that case.

“We’re worried about folks that are not showing symptoms to make sure that they’re not spreading the virus to others. Because we know the vast majority of folks who get the virus will not have symptoms and have very mild symptoms.”

Among the meeting’s callers was a county resident who questioned why COVID-19 is being treated so much differently than the seasonal flu.

“What constitutes this mass worldwide hysteria?” the caller asked.

Bera told the caller that as a novel coronavirus, COVID-19 is new, has no immunity, and is still spreading.

“Where we do know that it’s different than the flu is this is a much more contagious virus and it is a much deadlier virus,” he said. “We know we see the flu every year and we know a lot about influenza.

“We probably know less about the COVID-19 virus than what we do know about (it). We’re learning new things every day.”

The congressman said that it will continuously be important to take extra precautions with the more vulnerable populations: seniors and people with preexisting medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

Bera added that statistics will continue to be kept on the number of detected COVID-19 cases and related deaths.

He also expressed his desire for the world to work together on this issue, noting that “this is a global virus.”

“Until we stamp this virus out together, we will continue to be working at this,” he said. “I’m an optimist. I think there’s a silver lining. I think we did get through this first phase, but we will have to be in this together, because we don’t know if this is the next six months, 12 months, the next 24 months. But we know the virus will be out there until we have a safe and effective vaccine.”