Two new peer-reviewed studies are showing a significant drop in mortality rates among hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The decrease is seen among all groups including older patients and those with underlying conditions.
“We find that the death rate has gone down substantially,” says Leora Horwitz, a doctor who studies population health at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine and an author on one of the studies, which looked at thousands of patients from March to August.
Patients in the study had a 25.6% chance of dying at the start of the pandemic; they now have a 7.6% chance, suggesting that doctors are getting better at improving the survival chances through treatment options.
Horwitz maintains that COVID-19 is still a very dangerous illness, and is still much more infectious than other viruses like the flu. Long term complications for months are still possible.
“It still has the potential to be very harmful in terms of long-term consequences for many people.”
The study adjusted for changes of age and health of those now more frequently being hospitalized with the illness, as compared to earlier in the pandemic patients are now younger and generally healthier. The studies found that death rates dropped for all groups, even older patients by 18 percentage points on average.
“I would classify this as a silver lining to what has been quite a hard time for many people,” says Bilal Mateen, a data science fellow at the Alan Turing Institute in the United Kingdom. He has conducted his own research of 21,000 hospitalized cases in England, which also found a similarly sharp drop in the death rate. The work, which will soon appear in the journal Critical Care Medicine and was released earlier in preprint,shows an unadjusted drop in death rates among hospitalized patients of around 20 percentage points since the worst days of the pandemic.
Mateen and Horwitz point to outside factors that they believe are influencing the drop in mortality, such as mask-wearing to reduce the initial dose of virus a patient is exposed to. They also believe that keeping hospitals below maximum capacity allows for improved performance from health care givers.
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