We keep hearing how hospitals are being overrun with COVID patients because of those dastardly unvaccinated. This has certainly made the Delta variant look highly dangerous, helped keep people in a state of panic, and ginned up support for draconian vaccine mandates. But is it as bad as we’re being told?
Two studies suggest that all the talk of mass hospitalization from the COVID outbreak is a huge exaggeration. Researchers found that a substantial number of those admitted to hospitals – adults and children – either have minor symptoms or were checked in for something else but happened to test positive for COVID after being admitted.
Of course, that’s not the message the public is getting. Instead, we are being treated daily to headlines such as:
“Child Covid-19 hospitalizations soar, filling pediatric wings, data show”
“COVID-19 Hospitals: overrun with COVID patients”
“As Idaho hospitals ration care, doctors fear a COVID peak may still be weeks away”
When the death rate from COVID plunged, the media started focusing on the number of people hospitalized as the “better” indicator of how serious the current COVID outbreak is.
But that measure is grossly inflated because hospitals test every patient and are required to report any positive result, even if the patient has no symptoms. The result, as a surprisingly honest article in the Atlantic points out, is that “the overall tallies of COVID hospitalizations, made available on various state and federal dashboards and widely reported on by the media, do not differentiate based on severity of illness.”
The article points to new a new study by researchers the VA Boston Healthcare System and Tufts University, which tried to understand the severity of these hospital visits by looking at electronic records data from Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country. That way they could see which COVID patients needed supplemental oxygen or whose blood oxygen level went below 94%, which are indicators of a severe COVID case.
They found that last year, as COVID was emerging and before there were any vaccines, nearly two-thirds of those who tested positive in hospitals for COVID had severe symptoms. But this year, only about half did. The rest either had been admitted for other reasons or had a mild case of the disease.
And that’s not just because more of those admitted this year have been vaccinated. The researchers found that unvaccinated patients also had milder symptoms overall this year than last.
One of the study’s authors said this “may be explained by the fact that unvaccinated patients in the vaccine era tend to be a younger cohort who are less vulnerable to COVID and may be more likely to have been infected in the past.”
This isn’t the first study to conclude that hospitalization numbers were off the mark. Two research papers published in May concluded that COVID hospitalization rates for children were inflated by at least 40% for the same reason – many had mild cases or had been admitted to the hospital for unrelated health problems.
Yes, some hospitals are strained by COVID patients. But even that could be the result of the panic being spread. If people with sniffles are rushing to the hospital to get tested for COVID, then admitted for observation, then of course some hospitals will be overrun. (One doctor was recently seen on a leaked Zoom conference call talking to a North Carolina hospital’s director of marketing about exaggerating COVID hospital cases to make it “a little bit more scary for the public.”)
Once again, any good news about COVID is getting buried, even as the disease becomes less and less of a threat.
Liberal politicians and the mainstream press could change this, if they’d be more measured in their statements and more honest about the real risks COVID poses. But for their own selfish reasons, neither group wants to do so.
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board