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Good news: studies indicate drop in death rates among hospitalized patients with COVID-19: NPR

2020-10-21
SARS-COV-2 EM photo courtesy NIAID

National Public Radio (NPR) reported on October 20 that a peer-reviewed study of death rates in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 will appear in next week’s Journal of Hospital Medicine. A preprint was shared online in August.

Death rates dropped from 25.6% at the start of the pandemic to 7.6% as of July 14. 4,689 hospitalizations were evaluated in a single hospital system in New York City.

From the abstract, the discussion says:

 In this 16-week study of Covid-19 mortality at a single health system, we found that changes in demographics and severity of illness at presentation account for some, but not all, of the decrease in unadjusted mortality. Even after risk adjustment for a variety of clinical and demographic factors, mortality was significantly lower towards the end of the study period. Incremental improvements in outcomes are likely a combination of increasing clinical experience, decreasing hospital volume, growing use of new pharmacologic treatments (such as corticosteroids, remdesivir and anti-cytokine treatments), non-pharmacologic treatments (such as proning), earlier intervention, community awareness, and lower viral load exposure from increasing mask wearing and social distancing. 

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.08.11.20172775v1

While the later hospitalizations represented younger patients with lower viral loads, improvements in treatment also reduced mortality rates significantly. This is good news for anyone who gets sick with COVID-19.

A second study, of 14,958 hospitalizations in England, was reported as a preprint on August 3. This study included people admitted from March 1 through May 30. It found adjusted mortality risk dropped by 11% for regular admissions and 9% for intensive care unit (ICU) admissions.

These studies were also discussed in two blog posts: WhatsNew2Day and KPCC (public radio.)

Even if you survive a bout of illness, there is still a problem with lingering after-effects. This is now called “long covid.” Patients often report brain fog, exhaustion, reduced exercise tolerance, and other problems that continue for weeks or months after the virus has been eliminated from the system.

5-10% of patients report continued problems. Imaging has also revealed heart damage, lung injuries, and other problems (I posted earlier about an MRI study which said over 70% of patients had signs of heart damage.) BBC yesterday reported on a study due to be published soon, which says 5% of patients have symptoms for at least eight weeks.

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