While COVID Cases Skyrocket, Hospitalizations Continue Free Fall
As more and more information about COVID-19 is being published, it seems to be raising more questions than providing answers. From dates to fatality rates, there seems to be a lot that was missed or overestimated in the first few months of the COVID pandemic. A couple of the recent shocks come in the form of medical journal retractions, and particular new sources revising some of their previous stances.
The retraction came from The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine, who both retracted a report that condemned the drug Hydroxychloroquine as a COVID treatment. The other major revelation recently came from NPR, who published that "mounting evidence" now says COVID-19 is more common and less deadly than we previously thought.
Mix that in with the repeated changes from the World Health Organization on whether or not healthy people should wear masks, and from the CDC who has changed their stance on how the virus spreads on surfaces, and you end up with a lot of confusion about the virus. But the unanswered questions about one particular statistic might be bigger than all of the publicized changes to research.
Many people are wringing their hands online about the increase in positive COVID cases around the country. Many are feigning anger over perceived "second waves" of COVID-19 based on the theorized "two week incubation period" that has been attached to the virus. Generally stating that two weeks after any event or change, there will be an explosion in positive cases. Many social media posts will also follow headlines with some form of "the biggest single day jump" in reference to a state, parish, or county and their recent positive COVID cases.
But these two metrics appear to hold very little merit in the grand scheme of the pandemic.
First, a state, parish, or county having their "largest single day increase" in positive cases generally has more to do with increased testing than some new outbreak. Which directly leads to the second point, what does an increase in cases mean?
The State of Louisiana has had thousands of new cases every week for the last 7 weeks. In fact, the state has averaged more than 2,500 new COVID cases reported each week. But during each one of those weeks, the state's total number of COVID patients in hospitals, and the number of those patients on ventilators, have both been decreasing at exceptional rates.
Over the same period of time, while the state has added more than 2,500 positive cases each week, the state has had a decline of more than 170 hospitalized patients each week.
If a spike in new cases was a warning sign of trouble, wouldn't the increase in new positive cases translate into more people being hospitalized? Or more people being placed on ventilators? After each one of the "second wave" predictors (Mother's Day, Phase 1, Memorial Day), wouldn't we have seen a massive increase in hospitalizations? Perhaps there's not a correlation between new cases and hospitalizations in the way we previously thought.