Oct 21, 2020 - Health

Studies show drop in COVID death rate

Illustration of an hourglass with the sand in the shape of a virus
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

There's been a sharp drop in mortality rates among hospitalized coronavirus patients, including older patients and those with pre-existing health conditions, per two new peer-reviewed studies.

By the numbers: One study that looked at a single health system found that hospitalized patients had a 25.6% chance of dying at the start of the pandemic, but now have only a 7.6% chance, NPR reports.

  • Researchers found that the mortality rate had dropped for all groups, when controlling for factors like age and health status.
  • A second study of 21,000 hospitalized cases in England found a similarly large drop in the death rate.

What's happening: Doctors have developed standardized treatments for the virus, and have gotten better at identifying when patients are at risk of blood clots or a severe immune system reaction.

  • Mask wearing could also be helping, as it reduces the amount of the virus a person receives and thus reduces the severity of that person's illness.
  • And keeping hospitals below their maximum capacity — one of the byproducts of social distancing — also helps patients survive by ensuring they receive better care.

Yes, but: None of this means that the virus is low-risk — at least not compared to the flu. A CDC study released yesterday found that hospitalized coronavirus patients are five times more likely to die than hospitalized flu patients, and are also at higher risk for 17 complications.

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