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The Impact of COVID-19 on US Hospitals - Is it Worse Than Predicted?

“Social Distancing” is probably one of the most common phrases we’ve heard after the COVID-19 pandemic attacked the globe. While social distancing is advised to keep the virus from spreading further, it is also meant to help prevent healthcare providers from getting overwhelmed.

When people started to protect themselves and their communities through social distancing, it led to a noticeable reduction in the spread of the virus. Therefore, regardless of the size of the community or area, social distancing must continue in the next phase of this pandemic as well.

Since China is where the pandemic originated from, the policymakers of the United States have had to mainly rely on data from China in order to understand how it would impact hospitals and how they should prepare for it.

This, according to a study by researchers at the University of California (UC) Berkeley and Kaiser Permanente, led to significant underestimates of the following:

average time patients would stay in hospitals
how many would need treatment in an intensive care unit (ICU) and the case fatality risk.

Here’s what Joseph Lewnard, an assistant professor of epidemiology at UC Berkeley, had to say about the situation: “The hospital resources needed to meet the needs of severely ill patients are substantial. “We found that observations from China may not provide a sufficient basis for anticipating the U.S. health care demand.”

The researchers tracked 1,328 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in hospitals run by Kaiser Permanente in Washington state and California up to April 9, 2020. They monitored their length of stay, admission to ICU, and mortality rate.

Based on data from Chinese hospitals, they predicted that about 30% of hospitalized patients will require ICU care. However, the probability of ICU admissions turned out to be 40.7%, and the probability of death was 18.9% for those with COVID-19 whom doctors had admitted by April 9, 2020.

Similarly, a widely used modeling study from Imperial College London in the United Kingdom assumes an average hospital stay of 8 days, while the new study found that in the U.S., 25% of patients had to stay in the hospital for 16 days or more.

In conclusion, prevention is the cure, and it is in the best interest of the whole world to stick by that saying. The more careful we are as individuals and groups, the better the healthcare industry will be able to cater to the victim population, and the situation will have a higher chance of improvement.

Author: Sarah Anderson

Date: June 06, 2020