Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have been declining throughout the United States during the past month. On Feb. 9, 2022, CNN reported that, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS), the number of beds being used by COVID patients had dropped by 38 percent to under 100,000 from two weeks prior when COVID hospitalizations in the country had peaked at an all-time high of more than 160,000. A report from the Associated Press on Feb. 20 cited data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing that COVID hospitalizations were down from a national seven-day average of 146,534 on Jan. 20 to 80,185 the week ending on Feb 13.1 2 3
The number of COVID hospitalizations in the U.S. continued to plunge throughout February. On Mar. 2, The Wall Street Journal reported that, by the end of February, DHSS had confirmed the seven-day average for COVID hospitalizations was down 69 percent from the January peak to 49,000. By the first week in March, newspapers were increasingly publicizing the downward trend in states and counties around the country, with fairly dramatic headlines such as “Historic Lows for COVID Cases, Hospitalizations in Colorado” and “COVID-19 hospitalizations fall to lowest level since August” and “Coronavirus in Oregon: Weekly cases fall 28%, hospitalizations at lowest levels since July.” 1 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Americans Perceive the Pandemic May Be Over
Accompanying the consistent downward trend in COVID hospitalizations was a sense by the American public that perhaps the COVID pandemic was, at long last, coming to an end. One poll taken by the Kaiser Family Foundation on Mar. 1 found that 62 percent of people in the U.S. believe the worst of days of the pandemic are “behind us.” A previous similar poll by Kaiser in December found that only 25 percent felt the same way, suggesting how far the people’s perceptions have come in only two months.31 32 Numerous states and cities have begun lifting vaccination and masking restrictions.33 34 35 36 37
Seemingly overnight, the dark cloud that has plagued almost every aspect of American life for two years is lifting. But is the cloud really lifting, or is it simply being redefined or “recalculated”? Is the decline in COVID hospitalizations due to, as Helen Branswell wrote in a recent STAT article, the ‘freaking miracle’ of COVID-19 vaccines?38
CDC Credits Vaccines for Drop in COVID Hospitalizations
Certainly, a study released by the CDC on Feb. 9 would tend to favor the “it’s a vaccine miracle” hypothesis because the data appears to confirm at least temporary effectiveness of COVID shots. The study, which looked at the “effectiveness” of the second and third doses of the messenger RNA (mRNA) biologics developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna/NIAID, concluded that the shots lose “substantial” effectiveness after four months but still provided significant protection against hospitalizations due to the surge of Omicron variant infections during the latter part of last year and early this year.39 40
According to The Washington Post, the CDC study found:
The vaccine was 91 percent effective in preventing a vaccinated person from being hospitalized during the two months after a booster shot, the study found. But after four months, protection fell to 78 percent. Protection faded more in preventing trips to urgent care and emergency departments, falling from 87 percent in the first two months to 66 percent after four months.40
With a starting effectiveness rate of 91 percent against development of severe COVID, and even a diminished one 66 percent after four months, it would be reasonable to assume that the mRNA shots contributed, at least to some degree, to the marked drop in COVID hospitalizations during the past two months. There is also the likelihood that many Americans who have been exposed to one or more of the SARS-CoV-2 variants and managed to clear the virus from their body before the virus developed into a COVID illness and have attained natural immunity to the disease, thus also contributing to the decline in COVID hospitalizations.
Recalculating Hospitalizations for COVID
There may be another contributing reason for the decline. As noted in a recent article in The Vaccine Reaction titled “U.S. Hospitals May ‘Recalculate’ How They Report COVID Cases,” the U.S. government earlier this year reportedly established a “task force” of “scientists and data specialists” from DHHS and the CDC who are “working with hospitals nationwide to improve COVID-19 reporting.”41
An article in Politico stated that officials within the Biden administration said that the task force has been trying to get U.S. hospitals to report the number of patients being hospitalized because they have COVID and separate them from the patients hospitalized for other reasons but just happen to test positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus after being admitted. This implies that, up until this year, hospitals have been counting people admitted for reasons other than COVID as COVID patients if they happened to test positive for SARS-CoV-2 after admission.41
Essentially, the task force has been working to “recalculate” the COVID hospitalizations numbers to make them more accurately reflect those who are truly being admitted to hospitals for COVID symptoms. It’s important to set the record straight and stop continuing to overcount the number of COVID hospitalizations, as has apparently been the case for some time now.
It is equally important to publicly recognize this overcounting error in order to fully understand, for the sake of historical accuracy, all the reasons for this key downturn in reported COVID cases that have defined the pandemic.
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1 Maher K. Covid-19 Hospitalizations Are Down, but Nurse Shortages Stretch Hospitals. The Wall Street Journal Mar. 2, 2022.
2 McPhillips D. Covid-19 hospitalizations drop below 100,000 in the US, but heavy burden persists. CNN Feb. 9, 2022.
3 Willingham L, Matisse J. US virus cases, hospitalizations continue steady decline. Associated Press Feb. 20, 2022.
4 Adams M. Indiana COVID hospitalizations drop below 600. FOX 59 Mar. 7, 2022.
5 Arco M. N.J. reports 41 COVID deaths, 873 cases. Hospitalizations drop below 800 patients. NJ.com Mar. 2, 2022.
6 Associated Press. Alabama COVID hospitalizations hit lowest point since 2021. AL.com Mar. 4, 2022.
7 Berman A. Alaska reports 1,870 COVID-19 cases over 2 days, fewer hospitalizations. Anchorage Daily News Feb. 12, 2022.
8 Cavitt M. Michigan reporting 59% decline in COVID hospitalizations since mid-January. The Oakland Press Feb. 18, 2022.
9 Counts C. COVID-19 in Arkansas: Active cases, hospitalizations continue to drop. KARK Mar. 7, 2022.
10 CNS. LA County’s COVID hospitalizations fall to 755. Spectrum News Mar. 6, 2022.
11 Delaware News. COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations Decline; Guidance For Those Who Want To Wear Masks Included. Delaware.gov Mar. 4, 2022.
12 Emert J. Hospitalizations as a result of COVID decline statewide and across the mountains. WLOS Mar. 7, 2022.
13 Enstrom K. 1 COVID-19 death reported as cases, hospitalizations continue to fall in NH. WMUR 9 Mar. 7, 2022.
14 Held KS. COVID hospitalizations in Missouri dip below 1,000 patients for first time in 4 months. FOX 2 Now Mar. 8, 2022.
15 Kail B. Mass., Vermont now have fewest COVID hospitalizations per 100,000 residents as state averaged 564 new daily cases this past weekend. Mass Live Mar. 7, 2022.
16 Klein M. NY COVID-19 hospitalizations fall to lowest numbers since December. New York Post Feb. 12, 2022.
17 KTBS 3. COVID-19 hospitalizations in Louisiana continue to drop. Mar. 8, 2022.
18 KOLN. Nebraska COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue falling. 1011 Now KOLN/KGIN Feb. 21, 2022.
19 Lawlor J. COVID-19 hospitalizations at lowest level since August. Sun Journal Mar. 7, 2022.
20 MetroNews Staff. Active COVID cases continue to drop, hospitalizations now below 400. MetroNews Mar. 8, 2022.
21 Roberts M. Historic Lows for COVID Cases, Hospitalizations in Colorado. Westword Mar. 8, 2022.
22 Rozas River A, Towne S. RI revises COVID testing strategy as hospitalizations fall below 100. WPRI 12 Mar. 7, 2022.
23 Shimizu Harris M. COVID hospitalizations have dropped dramatically. Hospitals remain on high alert. Casper Star Tribune Mar. 5, 2022.
24 Sobrey R. Massachusetts coronavirus breakthrough cases, hospitalizations and deaths keep on falling. Boston Herald Mar. 8, 2022.
25 Timmins A. COVID-19 hospitalizations fall to lowest level since August. New Hampshire Bulletin Mar. 8, 2022.
26 WBAY News Staff. COVID-19 hospitalizations fall below 50 per day. WBAY Mar. 4, 2022.
27 Weinstock E. COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations decline in Pennsylvania. WGAL Feb. 16, 2022.
28 WTVR CBS 6 Web Staff. 875+ COVID-19 patients discharged last week; Virginia hospitalizations drop 36%. CBS 6 News Richmond Mar. 6, 2022.
29 WXYZ. Number of Michiganders hospitalized with COVID-19 drops below 1,000. WXYZ Detroit Mar. 8, 2022.
30 Zarkhin F. Coronavirus in Oregon: Weekly cases fall 28%, hospitalizations at lowest levels since July. The Oregonian Mar. 8, 2022.
31 Bellafonte G. Get Out of Your Pajamas, the Pandemic Is Over*. The New York Times Mar. 5, 2022.
32 Landman K, Irfan U, and Resnick B. Is the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic behind us? We asked 8 experts. Vox Mar. 2, 2022.
33 Associated Press. California will end mask mandate on Feb. 16, lifts negative test requirement to visit hospitals, nursing homes. KSBW 8 Action News Feb. 8, 2022.
34 Durkin E. NYC to end school mask mandate, vaccine requirements on March 7. Politico Feb. 27, 2022.
35 Kekatos M. NYC drops most COVID mask and vaccine requirements. ABC News Mar. 7, 2022.
36 Stokel-Walker C. COVID restrictions are lifting — what scientists think. Nature Mar. 7, 2022.
37 Tucker E, Alonso M, Johnston C. Growing number of states, major cities lift Covid-19 restrictions. CNN Feb. 19, 2022.
38 Branswell H. Why Covid-19 vaccines are a freaking miracle. STAT Feb. 14, 2022.
39 Ferdinands JM, Rao S, Dixon BE et al. Waning 2-Dose and 3-Dose Effectiveness of mRNA Vaccines Against COVID-19–Associated Emergency Department and Urgent Care Encounters and Hospitalizations Among Adults During Periods of Delta and Omicron Variant Predominance — VISION Network, 10 States, August 2021–January 2022. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Feb. 18, 2022; 71(7): 255–263.
40 Sun LH. Booster effectiveness wanes after 4 months, but showed sturdy protection against hospitalization, CDC study shows. The Washington Post Feb. 11, 2022.
41 Cáceres M. U.S. Hospitals May ‘Recalculate’ How They Report COVID Cases. The Vaccine Reaction Feb. 13, 2022.