Study: COVID-19 Hospitalization Numbers Might Be Significantly Inflated

By Li Hai
Li Hai
Li Hai
Li Hai is a New York-based reporter for The Epoch Times.
September 20, 2021 Updated: September 21, 2021

A recent study shows that COVID-19 hospitalization numbers in the United States could be highly exaggerated, as almost half of hospitalized patients only displayed “mild” symptoms, suggesting that they were likely admitted due to reasons unrelated to COVID-19.

The study (pdf), conducted by Harvard Medical School, Tufts Medical Center, and the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, is awaiting peer review.

“With widespread vaccination, the current definition of COVID-19 hospitalizations includes progressively more mild or incidental diagnoses, for example, cases identified prior to surgery or prior to discharge, rather than hospitalizations due to severe COVID-19,” the study reads.

The study pointed out that with routine, and often mandatory, COVID-19 screening testing of all admissions, the number of hospitalizations caused by the CCP virus may be “substantially” overestimated.

“In a pediatric population, 41 percent of reported admissions associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection were for reasons other than COVID-19, rates similar to those found when the simple definition of moderate to severe disease was applied in our cohort,” the study of the older population continues, citing two previous studies.

Both pediatric studies, which have already been peer-reviewed and published in May, reached similar conclusions. One claimed that most hospitalized children who tested positive for COVID-19 were asymptomatic or had a reason for hospitalization other than COVID-19. The other study concluded that “45 percent [of] admissions were categorized as unlikely to be caused by SARS-CoV-2.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s surveillance network COVID-NET defines a COVID-19 hospitalization as any patient admitted to the hospital within 14 days of a laboratory-confirmed diagnosis of CCP virus infection, regardless of the reason for the admission.

The new study’s authors analyzed electronic records for more than 47,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country. Hospitalized patients who required oxygen supplementation or had blood oxygen levels below 94 percent would be classified as having moderate to severe disease. Others were considered mild or asymptomatic.

These criteria were adapted from the COVID-19 severity score of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and were selected based on the ability to be captured from electronic health records, the study reads. The median age of the patients analyzed in the report was 71.1, the study notes.

The study suggested that the CDC should consider updating the definition of COVID-19 hospitalizations so as to differentiate hospitalizations “caused by” COVID-19 from hospitalizations “associated with” COVID-19.

The study also reported that the availability of COVID-19 vaccines has helped reduce the proportion of moderate-to-severe COVID-19 hospitalizations. Meanwhile, the proportion of COVID-19 infections has been shifting to be dominated by the Delta strain.

According to the CDC, the latest 7-day average for COVID-19 hospitalizations for Sept. 11 to 17 is 83,829. The highest 7-day average was 123,845, recorded in January.

CDC officials didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

Li Hai
Li Hai is a New York-based reporter for The Epoch Times.