Health

With Omicron, A Key COVID-19 Metric Has Become Highly Misleading

Hundreds of thousands of Americans each day pick up the Omicron variant of COVID-19. If they end up in the hospital, no matter what, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will report them as COVID-19 hospitals.

From adults with broken arms to children struggling with mental health crises, the vast segment of Americans who test positive for COVID-19 in hospitals are not present for COVID-19 at all. However, much of the media continues to report record case numbers and the huge rise in hospitalizations without a slight difference.

This problem existed before Omicron. Back in September, researchers released a paper that found that in Virginia hospitals, more than a third of COVID-19 hospital admissions were asymptomatic. All the way in May 2021, two papers published estimated that pediatric hospital admissions for COVID-19 were overstated by as much as 40%.

But the CDC hasn’t changed how it collects and presents hospitalization data. Now, more public health officials and journalists are beginning to acknowledge the shortcomings of using hospitalization as a meaningful yardstick for measuring the state of the pandemic.

It’s problematic that the CDC hasn’t updated its reporting practices, said Dr. Cody Meisner, an expert in pediatrics and infectious diseases at Tufts Children’s Hospital: “The CDC didn’t really do that, because it’s clearly extra work, and they have to do it.” Collect additional information.

“There are a lot of these kids who are in the hospital, especially now because Omicron is so contagious, and they’ve tested positive for some completely unrelated illnesses like shock, so they need to be hospitalized but that has nothing to do with COVID-19. But the CDC still considers them as a hospital admission for COVID.”

Every hospital in the country is testing every patient for COVID-19 on admission. This means that even asymptomatic cases, where hospitalizations are unrelated to the virus, are reported as COVID-19 hospital admissions.

“What I’m hearing from my colleagues in the New York City hospital world is that up to half of the Covid-19 cases that have been registered in the hospital recently (almost all of them are Omicron) are people who checked in for other reasons (adults or children) and then tested positive,” said Dr. John Moore, a professor of biology. Microbiology and Immunology at Cornell University, “Asymptomatic Omicron.” “Remember that polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests can detect very low levels of virus long after the active infection has cleared.”

This testing protocol does not apply to any other virus or respiratory illness comparable to COVID-19, be it pneumonia, influenza or other forms of SARS, said Dr. Monica Gandhi, a professor of medicine and infectious disease expert at UCLA. San Francisco: Historically, we have never screened patients for respiratory viruses when patients are hospitalized with non-respiratory symptoms except for COVID-19. We did this for SARS-CoV-2 prior to vaccinations because asymptomatic transmission can occur and the virus causes severe disease in some individuals.”

“Therefore, we isolate patients with SARS-CoV-2 in their noses from other patients (and use different PPE as healthcare providers around them), even if they have non-specific COVID disease.”

It can be hard to say what portion of the hospitalizations reported from COVID-19 this represents, but there are some estimates out there, and they’re high. (Related: Judges Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer decide false COVID-19 misinformation in court record)

“This occurred about 40% of the time children were admitted to hospitals in a careful revision of the graph earlier in the pandemic, with the potential to reduce adult deaths from COVID to 25% less when accounting for this screening phenomenon,” Gandhi said. “This accounting becomes even more important in the context of a highly transmissible variable like Omicron…New York City data shows that 50% of hospitalizations in New York City are for causes other than COVID.”

Gandhi and her UCSF colleague, Dr. Jane Noble, believe that more than two-thirds of hospitalizations at their hospital are not for COVID-19.

New York Democratic Gov. Cathy Hochhol recently announced that her state will begin reporting COVID-19 hospital admissions and occasional positive tests. But most other states don’t follow suit, and Omicron is making the problem worse due to the fact that it’s more contagious, but also less severe, than previous variants.

Because of Omicron’s unique properties, there was a difference between those who were hospitalized with COVID-19 and those who were hospitalized with COVID-19. This was not really a large proportion of cases with earlier variants, but it is becoming more common due to the spread of Omicron and the fact that many people have been fully vaccinated and have very mild or no symptoms,” Dr. Johns Hopkins Health Security and Infectious Disease Expert for The Daily Caller.

“Omicron is a game-changer in this regard, because it is now certain to skew the stats,” Moore wrote. “In other words, so far ‘accidental infections’ have not been of much importance and have not affected policy/perceptions. Now, it looks different.”

Moore added that the data is more skewed in high-vaccinated areas because serious infections are rare in vaccinated individuals, while hospitalizations in those unvaccinated for COVID-19 are more likely than accidental.

So what is the best metric to use to gauge how badly certain communities are infected with COVID-19? There’s no consensus, but the experts who spoke with the Daily Caller had some ideas.

“A better measure might be to look at those individuals in the hospital who had Covid and were also receiving dexamethasone,” Adalja said. Dexamethasone is a drug recommended by health authorities for patients who require supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation.

“What matters most are the severe infections, and thus the number of ICU admissions and deaths. They are what needs to be tracked,” Moore argued.

Deaths are increasing as Omicron spreads across the country, according to the CDC. Although it’s not nearly as high in cases or hospitalizations, which may be a sign of things that come with a highly immunized population and a dominant, milder variant.

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