Covid-19 Death Rate Per Hospitalizations Decline

Since the middle of April, 2020, we have been following the state of Ohio’s daily report on various Covid-19 metrics. 

Unsurprisingly, the numbers of Covid-19 positive tests have increased during the Fall season (Fig. 1).  This is the time of the year in Ohio when infectious diseases tend to become more prevalent.  Absolute numbers of Covid-19 associated deaths have increased somewhat but not nearly at the rate of positive cases (Fig. 2). 

Looking at the number of hospitalizations can help us understand the impact on the health care system.  Hospitalizations have increased considerably (Fig. 3), confirming the disease is spreading.

However, we observed an interesting finding when looking at the rate of deaths associated with Covid-19 based on the increasing number of hospitalizations.  Looking at this can help us identify whether the disease is becoming more fatal or not.  Interestingly, the death rate on the basis of hospitalizations has declined significantly (Fig. 4).  There are a number of possible reasons for this decline:  1) the medical community has improved its ability to treat Covid-19, 2) the virulence of current strains of Covid-19 is weakening, and(or) 3) highly susceptible individuals have already died.

While the third possibility may be responsible initially, as time goes on it is likely this effect will fade away.  Our ability to explain the declining death rate is then is drawn to the remaining possibilities.  Thinking optimistically, we’d like to believe that physicians and nurses have improved treatment care.  The nature of many viruses is that they tend to weaken in their killing ability.  Killing the host reduces the ability of the virus to transmit to others and eventually the virus dies out for lack of a host.  As such, it is quite possible current strains Covid-19 strains have become less virulent.

Figure 1.  Covid-19 Cases in Ohio

Figure 2.  Covid-19 Deaths in Ohio

Figure 3.  Hospitalizations in Ohio

Figure 4.  Covid-19 Deaths Per Hospitalizations in Ohio

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