As more testing becomes available, Covid-19 cases seem to be on the rise. However, should we look at the number of confirmed cases or is there a more accurate option? To get a better view of the severity of the virus, especially at a local level, check Covid-19 hospitalization data versus the number of confirmed cases. Here’s why:
It’s difficult to monitor the situation.
There are many factors involved that affect data. First, most cities and states do not have resources to monitor the area 24/7. This includes monitoring people showing symptoms and/or not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.
Then consider people who carry the virus and not know because they have not been tested or show symptoms. They unintentionally carry and spread the virus, and don’t realize it. Add to that number people who show symptoms and do not get tested or treated. Many simply recover at home without additional care.
Limited tests and data.
The number of daily infections only come from those who get tested. Covid-19 tests are not available to everyone. Many rural communities, people without health insurance and some health-care providers do not have access. In addition, testing sites and health-care professionals will only test under certain circumstances. Another consideration is small cities and towns do not have sophisticated health-care options, and may not have the ability to test or keep up with the spread.
A better recommendation is to estimate how many people have access to the test and have been hospitalized. This can show that those who tested positive were sick enough to need hospital stays. This number will read much lower than those just testing positive and may yield more accurate results.
As more people receive tests, the number of new cases will increase. These numbers will consistently rise before they decline.
Studies show Covid-19 tests have both false-negative and false-positive rates. Also, the number of tests don’t match the number tested because some people require more than one test. In some cases – about 30% – patients have tested a false negative, which indicates they were in fact infected.Not even the CDC has complete data, as only selected counties and states participate in Emerging Infections Program (EIP) and Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Project (IHSP). This means not all states actively report accurate data.
However, the CDC states: Between March 1, 2020, and May 2, 2020, the overall cumulative hospitalization rate was 50.3 per 100,000 population, about 5 percent. The majority of those hospitalizations were above the age of 50 and had underlying medical conditions.
This number will fluctuate based on area as well, as urban areas will likely have a higher Covid-19 hospitalization rate verses rural communities. In addition, if those infected are seniors or have medical conditions, the hospitalization rate will likely read higher in those communities.
What about the death rate? Numbers don’t sync.
News outlets also report the number of deaths related to Covid-19. However, these numbers are inaccurate because several factors impact this data.
Some patients have died weeks after testing positive, some within days. Many deaths are not reported immediately, consistently or outside of hospitals. Daily data reports do not show accurate reports from nursing homes, prisons, veteran homes, rehabilitation facilities, etc.
The incubation period plays a role as well, as it can take up to 14 days before showing symptoms or requiring testing. Without knowing when a patient became sick, we cannot decide how aggressively Covid-19 moves or how soon it causes serious health problems.
The meaning of hospitalization.
The number of Covid-19 hospitalization cases prove more valuable because these patients have severe cases that require monitoring, equipment, isolation and consistent care. This number can show how serious Covid-19 is in a particular area versus less-serious cases.
When traveling or considering going out in public, knowing the severity of Covid-19 will help residents decide if it’s safe. For example, a small town may have several cases but no hospitalized patients. This may provide some comfort by knowing the virus is not too severe in that community.