Almost half of ‘Covid hospitalizations’ in Massachusetts are among people who were admitted for a non-virus related reason. The revelation by state health officials Thursday makes the state the first to differentiate between hospitalizations ‘with’ Covid versus hospitalizations ‘because of’ Covid.
This failure to differentiate nationwide has led to record hospitalization figures being recorded nation wide despite the relative mildness of the now-dominant Omicron variant.
On Tuesday, January 18, official figures reported 3,187 Bay Staters hospitalized with Covid. The figure included both sets of Covid infected people.
The state’s Department of Public Health (DPH) revealed Thursday afternoon that after analyzing and differentiating patient data, only 49 percent – or around 1,561 – were admitted because of a severe case of the virus.
Massachusetts became the first state to release data differentiating Covid positive patients in hospitals by their reason for being admitted. The data revealed that only 49% of ‘Covid patients’ in the hospital are actually receiving treatment for Covid, while the others are being treated for another condition and just testing positive while present. Pictured: A Covid patient in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, receives treatment from a health care worker on January 11
‘I think it’s really important to understand vaccine effectiveness because we are calling these patients COVID hospitalizations,’ Dr Shira Doron, an epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center, told Boston 25.
‘At Tufts Medical Center, half of them are vaccinated, and you don’t want to be calling them a vaccine breakthrough hospitalization when they aren’t.’
According to official data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Friday, 87 percent of Massachusetts’ 18,250 hospital beds are currently occupied, with just over 3,000 by people infected by Covid.
On average, 159,000 Americans are hospitalized with Covid every day, per the HHS, a pandemic record.
The HHS data does not differentiate between Covid hospitalizations, though, and the figure is inflated.
Not only does that make the figure misleading, but it could also hurt the public’s perception of the Covid vaccine, boosters, and the Omicron variant itself.
Health officials are adamant that the Omicron variant is by far the most mild Covid strain yet.
Data revealed last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that a person infected with the Omicron variant is 50 percent less likely to be hospitalized and 91 percent less likely to die of Covid that if they caught the Delta strain.
The agency also reports that the Omicron variant accounts for 99.5 percent of active cases in the U.S.
Experts have also determine that being fully vaccinated may not provide adequate protection against infection, it can still prevent the most severe of the virus’s symptoms.
Receiving a booster shot also re-establishes protection against infection that people had against other strains with just the original vaccine regimen.
Omicron is spreading rapidly, though, causing cases to reach record levels as well. At some points this month, the nation was averaging around 800,000 new cases a day – nearly quadruple the peak case count during summer’s surge of the Delta variant.
With so many people walking around with the virus – and some experts projecting that only one-third of cases are actually being included in the reported virus totals – many people coming in for routine treatment or for emergency situations are arriving while positive.
Massachusetts is now the first state to make this type of differentiation. Doron says it can help officials get a better look at the current situation in hospitals around the state.
‘When the wave is behind us and COVID cases are low, all those patients admitted for reasons other than COVID, those types of cases aren’t going away,’ Doron said.
‘So, if 50 percent are not due to COVID, we have to know that we’re not getting that capacity back when COVID cases go down.’
Calls for hospitals to do a better job differentiating Covid patients have been loudening in recent weeks.
The current record figure is near useless, and does not at all give Americans an accurate snapshot of the current state of the pandemic.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul, whose state is among the national leaders is Covid hospitalization rate, called for hospitals to be more detailed in their reporting earlier this month.
‘When we’re looking at the hospitalizations of people testing positive in a hospital, is that person in the hospital because of COVID, or did they show up there and are routinely tested and showing positive, and they may have been asymptomatic or even just had the sniffles?’ she said during a news briefing on January 4.