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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.

Go deeper

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot — FDA panel endorses Pfizer vaccines for 5-11 year olds — Moderna says vaccine shows strong immune response in kids
  2. Health: COVID cases, deaths at meat plants were far higher than previously thought — 96% of Tyson Foods employees vaccinated ahead of mandate deadline — U.S. releases updated vaccination, testing rules for foreign travelers
  3. Politics: Louisiana lifts mask mandate except for some schools — Alabama governor orders state agencies to fight federal vaccine mandate — Axios-Ipsos poll: Confidence in Biden COVID recovery tumbles
  4. Education: Benefits of vaccine for children outweigh risks, FDA says — Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states — LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Oct 26, 2021 - Health

FDA panel endorses Pfizer vaccines for 5-to-11-year-olds

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Members of the Food and Drug Administration's vaccine expert panel Tuesday endorsed a two-dose series of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5–11. The final vote was 17 members in favor, with one member abstaining.

Why it matters: While not binding, the decision is a long-awaited step toward getting COVID vaccines in the arms of some of the youngest Americans potentially in time to get many fully vaccinated in advance of the holiday season.

Linh Ta, author of Des Moines
Oct 26, 2021 - Axios Des Moines

Iowa ranks No. 2 in U.S. for best ACT scores

Expand chart
Data: ACT; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Iowa's 2021 high school graduating class earned the second-highest ACT score in the U.S., averaging a composite score of 21.5 out of 36, said Rose Babington, ACT's director of state partnerships.

  • Our ranking is in comparison to other states who have a 40% or higher participation rate.