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In a report published this week by Atlantic reporter David Zweig, new data suggests that of the people who are being hospitalized with COVID, almost half of those people have a mild case or are asymptomatic. Using Veterans Administration data, researchers from Harvard, Tufts and the VA took a look at how sick patients were when the hospital admitted that patient.
Zweig reports that the researchers analyzed 50,000 COVID hospital admissions from over 100 VAs across the country “to see whether each patient required supplemental oxygen or had a blood oxygen level below 94%.”
If patients met one of those conditions, researchers considered it a moderate to severe case of COVID. If not, the case was deemed mild or asymptomatic.
Here are the results:
“The study found that from March 2020 through early January 2021—before vaccination was widespread, and before the Delta variant had arrived—the proportion of patients with mild or asymptomatic disease was 36 percent,” Zweig reported. “From mid-January through the end of June 2021, however, that number rose to 48 percent. In other words, the study suggests that roughly half of all the hospitalized patients showing up on COVID-data dashboards in 2021 may have been admitted for another reason entirely, or had only a mild presentation of disease.”
Again, keep in mind this study was through VA records. Very few women and zero children are included in these numbers. However, a study released by Stanford in May says that COVID hospitalizations for children are “likely” overcounted just like the data found at the VA.
“Counting SARS-CoV-2 infections in hospitalized children overestimates the impact of COVID-19 in pediatric populations because such counts include many asymptomatic patients,” researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine announced.
Shira Doron, an infectious-disease physician and hospital epidemiologist at Tufts, tells Zweig that there needs to be a new definition for hospitalization. “Those patients who are there with rather than from COVID don’t belong in the metric,” Doron says.