Sep 28, 2021 - Health

The coronavirus made hospitalizations more lethal

Data: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Hospitals saw a lot fewer patients and yet a lot more death in the early part of the pandemic, according to new federal data.

The big picture: Hospitals called off less-urgent procedures to keep beds open for COVID-19 patients, but health care workers dealt with tidal waves of death from a dangerous virus that was running rampant — similar to what some areas are experiencing all over again.

By the numbers: Looking at the second quarters of the years between 2016 and 2019 as a baseline, there was an average of 1.8 deaths per 100 hospitalizations. In comparison, there was an average 3.2 deaths per 100 hospitalizations in the second quarter of 2020, according to hospital data in 13 states analyzed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

  • The number of hospitalizations in April through June in those 13 states dropped 21%, but in-hospital deaths increased 38%.
  • Hospital deaths increased at a higher rate for adults aged 18–64 than for adults 65 and older.
  • 27% of deaths among all patients between April and September 2020 were related to COVID-19, and that percentage was significantly higher for Hispanic (57%) and Black (38%) patients.

Between the lines: The surge of COVID-19 deaths forced many hospitals to request refrigerated morgue trucks because they were out of places to store bodies.

  • This has happened again in states like Florida, Missouri, Idaho and Washington even though COVID-19 vaccines are now available and prevent most instances of serious illness and death.

The bottom line: If you get hospitalized with COVID-19 and are not vaccinated, your chances of dying in the hospital remain much higher than if you are vaccinated.

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