As predicted, COVID-19 infection rates are rising with the onset of colder weather. Be this as it may, death rates for seriously infected patients are on the decline. In April the disease killed over 10,000 patients in New York City, and by early the following month 50,000 nursing home residents and their caregivers did not survive their illnesses.
In March, 30% of all COVID-19 patients did not survive. Current figures, at least as reported by one NYC hospital, show the percentage as having toppled to only 3%.
A similar trend has been seen in England. “In late March, four in 10 people in intensive care were dying. By the end of June, survival was over 80 percent,” cited the University of Exeter researcher, John M. Dennis. “It was really quite dramatic,” he added.
As the virus continues to spread, it has somewhat changed its characteristics. The initial survival rate for the elderly had them scurrying to their basements in total isolation. Because so many of them took precautions, the virus found a new plug to jam itself into. By August, the average age of those infected dropped to under 40.
Given how people at younger ages are far more healthier and resilient than their parents or grandparents helps explain the significant reduction of casualties. No solid evidence has been produced to show that the virus has weakened or strengthened, though some suggest the rate and ease of transmission has increased.
So, is the reduction in casualties a result of younger people becoming infected, or is it from breakthroughs and discoveries within the medical profession? Have enough advances been made to warrant relaxing our guard?
Researchers at NYU Langone Health thought these would be good questions to answer so they conducted a test of 5000 COVID-19 patients. They determined the survival rate to no longer be a matter of age. They studied the differences in patients’ ages, sex, race, underlying health problems, and the severity of their symptoms upon admission. There was no factor they did not consider.
The test, conducted between March through August, showed the death rate tumble from 25.6 percent, down to 7.6 percent. NYU Langone’s Center for Healthcare Innovation & Delivery Science and senior author of the paper in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, Dr. Leora Horwitz, made the following statement. “This is still a high death rate, much higher than we see for flu or other respiratory diseases.”
Dr. Robert A. Phillips, chief physician executive at Houston Methodist and author of a research letter in JAMA, agrees with Horwitz. “The mortality rates are way lower now.” But he also added how the disease is “not only deadly — 10 times more deadly probably than bad influenza — but it also has long-term complications. You don’t have that from the flu.”
Dr. Phillips said, “post-Covid syndrome,” leaves some patients with lifelong respiratory and neurologic problems, in addition to cardiac complications and a hodgepodge of other lingering issues.
Dr. Preeti Malani, an infectious disease expert at the University of Michigan, said how it’s relatively easy to measure death, but that figure doesn’t represent all the other health issues. “It will take a long time to understand the full clinical spectrum of this disease.”
Clinicians all agree on how they can now better control the symptoms with steroids and other non-drug treatments which have freed them up to concentrate better on patients in severe distress. When hospitals were overcrowded and overwhelmed during the onset of COVID-19, those patients in critical condition were sometimes ignored in favor of patients who could still be saved. They had no choice but to tie a tag to their toes.
Dr. Horwitz said, “We don’t have a magic bullet cure, but we have a lot, a lot of little things, that add up. 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.
We understand how to watch for oxygen levels even before patients are in the hospital, so we can bring them in earlier. And of course, we understand that steroids are helpful, and possibly some other medications.”
We should all be able to agree on certain precautions we need to continue taking, but with the medical profession now having a better handle on things, the death rate in rapid decline, and the promise of a new vaccine just around the bend, America has, indeed, rounded the corner.