All but essential businesses are empty. Plastic shields divide cashiers from customers who emerge from isolation for sustenance and toilet paper. In the rare moments when conversations are held between strangers, words are muffled by homemade masks and scarves, and a space of six feet stands between them. All that’s missing is the iconic tumbleweed making its way down an empty, windswept road. And in some parts of the Tri-Valley, that’s easy enough to find.

Alas, it’s the sign of the times in the midst of a statewide shelter-in-place going on four weeks now. While the symptoms seem grim and most of us are sick not from COVID-19 but from hearing such words and phrases as “underscored” or “flattening the curve,” our governor indicates our efforts to isolate are indeed working.

“California has been flattening the curve thanks to millions of people staying home and practicing physical distancing,” Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote on Twitter April 11. “The worst thing we can do is get ahead of ourselves. Staying at home is literally saving lives. This isn’t over yet. We have to keep it up.”

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) offers COVID-19 impact projections by state. The model projects 1,616 deaths by Aug. 4 but shows the curve reaching that number and flattening by mid-May. While IHME’s graph is paired with a disclaimer that states the gray area “indicates uncertainty” — and that uncertainty has a wide range — Newsom and health officials express encouragement by results seen throughout the state.

What does it all mean? We have to maintain social distancing and proper hand washing as though that end is not in sight.

Let’s be honest, it hasn’t been easy. While some people are making homemade bread and catching up on organizing their homes, others are barely getting by. You can’t take your kids anywhere. Seniors are more isolated than ever, and somewhat serious jokes about the rate of divorce after this thing is over are circulating the internet. But we have to hang in there, because we are seeing results.

Keep washing your hands. If you must go out, wear a mask to help protect others in the event that you’re asymptomatic. Breathe in the beautiful morning air and take comfort in the fact that, if nothing else, we can still get outside and walk.

To review the IHME projection model, visit