COVID hospitalization rates continue to fall despite reductions in social distancing.

Today, there were several stories addressing Secretary Azar’s comments that many states with higher levels of COVID infection are now seeing fewer new cases. He was quoted remarking that in states reducing social restrictions increases in COVID cases aren’t being seen.

The reasons behind this may be complex but important to verify. Since reduced social restrictions are a new phenomenon, I decided not to look at changes in deaths, but to examine changes in hospitalizations which would occur first. One mechanism to examine this is to look at percentage of hospital admissions from COVID, one of the first markers to change. These were available in a report from Axios.

States with Decreases in COVID hospitalization percentages in the past two weeks

COVID hospitalizations as a percentage of all hospitalizations are falling dramatically in many states, but not all. The fall in COVID vs all hospital admissions is particularly impressive in states that had high COVID hospitalizations to begin with. When one examines states like New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Connecticut, the reductions are 50-75% of peak levels seen only a few weeks ago; truly impressive. 

The reasons behind this are multiple, however part of this is because the states were restricted from admitting non COVID-19 patients, because of the COVID crisis. Hospitals are now beginning to admit patients with other diseases as the number of patients with COVID-19 in these states’ hospitals have decreased dramatically. Many hospitals had so few patients that their utilization was low — 60 to 70% bed occupancy as compared to greater than 90% normally observed.

In contrast, all increases in COVID hospitalization rates seen in the past two weeks were mainly in smaller states with extremely low levels of COVID infection. These also tend to be states, such as South and North Dakota, where populations are more rural and have fewer urban areas to spread the virus.

States with increases in COVID hospitalization percentages in the past two weeks.

The most interesting thing, however, is the states where COVID hospitalizations have been stable. Some of these states retain significant levels of hospitalizations, such as Delaware, Illinois, Virginia, and California despite social distancing remaining in effect. Other states like Arizona, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Texas, maintained low but steady levels of COVID hospitalizations despite reductions in social distancing rules.

States with stable levels in COVID hospitalization percentages in the past two weeks.

These numbers are impressive because they are overall very positive and more reliable than other COVID reporting measures (prior posts from this blog identified problems with reporting COVID in Virginia and other states). It may also be that in states like Arizona, Texas, and Wisconsin that are easing their social restrictions, individuals at high risk of illness from COVID have continued to social distance.

All this seems like very good news in the push to end social restrictions. With the Memorial Day weekend approaching, however, we will need to monitor these rates to make sure that the positive trends remain in effect.

Published by jbakerjrblog

Immunologist, former Army MD, former head of allergy and clinical immunology at University of Michigan, vaccine developer and opinionated guy.

5 thoughts on “COVID hospitalization rates continue to fall despite reductions in social distancing.

  1. Tha ks again Jim. Another informative and helpful post. I cannot tell you enough how important this blog has been to keeping my sanity. There’s a couple wee drams or pints from me with your name on them if we get to meet.


  2. Two thoughts…first, to your point about the vulnerable still distancing…yes. Here in Georgia 25 year-olds are in the parks and bars…the elderly are still locked down and scared. Second, and tangentiality acknowledged up front, it’s interesting to note that despite a large decrease in hospitalizations for non-Covid related illness, there’s no evidence that public health suffered. Leads to the natural question – should we really be spending 19% of our GDP on medical care at baseline and so little on public health prevention? The answer has always been “no” – but now we have another anecdote. Limit elective hospitalizations for very profitable surgeries and what happens to public health measures? Nothing. What happens to hospital and med device company profits? Plenty.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t get it, Jim. To me, Dr. Bright and other fed whistle-blowers are heroes, by definition. His House testimony felt truthful, as do his interviews.

    On the May 16 you wrote: “proclaiming the program that (Bright) ran for four years as a “failure that will produce the darkest winter in modern history” doesn’t help (his) case!”

    Is his prior leadership of Barta so lackluster or dishonorable as to discredit his whistle? Ultimately, was he not fired due to his prescient complaints about key elements of the Trump government’s despicable response (hydroxycholoriquine, masks, etc.)?

    Please help me judge if he’s credible. I need a better understanding of his misdeeds and their relevance to help wrap my head around this nightmare and reset my vision of a preferred future for Public Health and medical care. Can you amplify?

    Further, what’s your take on the CDC and its performance so far? Unlike in the past, Swine flu included, it is basically silent, if silenced, I fear Trump and the Congress will hurt its righteous mission(s) and funding. Navarro trashed CDC last night.

    Is CDC imperiled? Can its voice be restored? If so, who will listen much less believe, once further discredited by FOX and its despicable friends? Trump and his minions included. Navarro is getting hell for criticizing the CDC, last night, but I’d bet Trump is drooling with glee.

    What about Trump appointees Redfield and Azar in this mix? Scary as they seem?

    35% of Americans already say they won’t get vaccinated. My UM SPH/Rackham dissertation “Factors Influencing Intentions and Behavior Toward Swine Flu Vaccine” (1984) informs me, pre-vaccine intentions are sticky… “No, means no”! And with FOX, TRUMP, and the “Never Vaccinators”, it’s going to get worse, much worse, especially with a silent, ridiculed CDC.

    Assuming effective, safe vaccine development and early as possible stockpiling, if its acceptance is only by those with a functional brain, what of Herd Immunity?

    What’s your take?

    BREAKING NEWS: Trump announces his 1.5 week use of hydroxychloroquine prescribed, because he asked, a White House physician. He should have kept it to himself! More numbskull Americans will demand to be like BIG daddy, and their docs will prescribe. His social influence is very powerful, ugly voodoo.

    Soon, Trump and these docs will be asked about their recommendations concerning vaccine use. They’ll say something like “Why bother with risky vaccines, if Covid happens again, and it won’t, hydroxychloroquine’s my go to cure! What have you got to lose?

    What schmucks!

    And thanks soooo much, Jim, for all of your amazing data, information, insights, and strangeness!


    1. Bright is the prior leadership of BARDA, heading the program as the number 2 that now decries. He long predates Trump and oversaw a program that has been under prepared for years despite an almost untethered flow of money. To only whistleblow after he was relieved of his position is sour grapes; if he had done it months ago to really alert the country in time of need and put himself at risk I might have bought it.

      Chloroquine is craziness but a side show. Trump can take whatever he wants as long as we get real drugs and vaccines. No rational person listens to him anymore. Best, Jim


      1. I get you on Bright, I’ll filter it in.. but better to blow then to not I think.

        Trump is not a side show to the masses – he and his ilk have and will hurt CDC and the vaccine’s uptake big time.

        The public’s health will pay the reaper.

        Liked by 1 person

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