During the spring, when the COVID-19 pandemic was ravaging the northeast, thousands of people were dying every day across the country. However, while the virus is still raging — with the United States even experiencing a record high of infections, per the seven day case average—one thing has become clear: not as many people who are infected with the virus are dying as a result. Read on to see why, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
Why Are Less People Dying From Coronavirus?
According to a New York Times report, survival rates—even for those with serious infections—have improved. For example, one New York hospital system had a death rate of 30 percent in March. By June, it had dropped down to three percent. Another hospital in England experienced a 40 percent death rate in late March, dropping to 20 percent by the end of June.
While the virus itself has changed slowly, scientists don't believe that it has become either "less virulent or more virulent." They also point out that older people are being more careful and now hospitalized patients tend to be younger, healthier adults. For example, by the end of August, the average COVID-19 patient was under 40.
As to why the death rate seems to have plummeted, researchers at NYU Langone Health recently conducted a study to find out. They analyzed the outcome of 5,000 patients hospitalized from March to August, finding that the improved survival rate had more to do than with simply a younger patient pool.
While a combination of factors attributed to the lower rate of death — which dropped to 7.6 percent in August from 25.6 percent in March — one of the main was that COVID-19 was initially a misunderstood virus, and over time, healthcare workers began to understand it, and were better able to manage and treat it. Community awareness is likely another factor, as people are seeking treatment earlier rather than later. Finally, hospitals aren't as overwhelmed as they once were, so they are better equipped to treat people.
"We don't have a magic bullet cure, but we have a lot, a lot of little things, that add up," Dr. Leora Horwitz, director of NYU Langone's Center for Healthcare Innovation&Delivery Science, told the New York Times. "We understand better when people need to be on ventilators and when they don't, and what complications to watch for, like blood clots and kidney failure."
While the death rate has declined, the number of infections is increasing and hospitalizations are increasing — going up by more than 40 percent in the last month alone. Health experts are concerned that this could negatively impact mortality rates.
Dr. Fauci Warns We're in for "A Whole Lot of Pain" Nonetheless
"If things do not change, if they continue on the course we're on, is going to be a whole lot of pain in this country with regard to additional cases and hospitalizations and deaths," he stated. "We are on a very difficult trajectory. We are going in the wrong direction. We're averaging 70,000 cases per week. We've gone up as high as 83,000 last Friday. And if you look at the map, there are a large number of cases in states that are going in the wrong direction. If that continues, we're going to be in much worse shape a month from now than we are today."
He also pointed out that certain parts of the country that are going to be more prone to devastation due to their healthcare systems.
"There are certain regions of the country that are going to even have more of a problem because there are some places in the Heartland and then the Northwest that never had the kind of hospital and intensive care facility and flexibility that some of the larger hospitals in largest cities like New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and others," he said. "So the concern is that if you talk to the people which I have done that who are in those regions of the country, they're concerned that if the trajectory continues, they may be in a position where they're going to be strapped for things like intensive care beds."
"The data is strong. It's also manifested by the fact that if you look at the map of the country where you have an uptick in cases, we are also having upticks in hospitalizations. So the cases are real. They're not just as a result of testing."
As always, Fauci reminds that our best protection is by sticking to the fundamentals — wearing your face mask, "distancing from a person six feet or more avoiding crowds in congregate settings, doing things outdoors, much more than indoors and washing your hands frequently—if you look across the country that is not been uniformly done," he said. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.