As the pandemic begins to wind down, it is getting very difficult to get hard data on where things actually stand in the United States. Many of the long-term pandemic monitor websites such as the “Covid Tracking Project” have ceased their operations. In addition, even state websites are not listing daily data in a cumulative fashion, so you can no longer compare trends from earlier time points to infections today.
This is a particularly frustrating problem since the national news and social media are reporting “surges in infections” in multiple states. On a personal level, Michigan is reported to be one of the states with the “greatest increases,” and “where COVID-19 hospitalizations in Michigan surge 800% in March among people 40-49 years old.” While this could be a small number of cases overall, the CDC website also suggests an increase in Michigan infections. Since I work here, and I am in health care, this makes me very concerned.
If the vaccines are beginning to have an effect, especially in the elderly population where they have been targeted, the increases in infection should not be accompanied by increases in hospitalizations and deaths.
One of the sites that is still reporting daily statistics is the COVID-19 project (COVID-19.healthdata.org) at the University of Washington School of Public Health. They do not have state-specific data, but the national data looks very different from what is being reported on national media.
Estimated infections have fallen dramatically over the past two months and are projected to continue to decrease. Daily infections from COVID-19 are at 115,000, below any time since the very beginning of the pandemic.
Hospitalization utilization is also at a low point, below any time since the first wave of the pandemic and is projected to continue to decrease.
Daily deaths have mercifully also decreased, down from a peak of over 3,000 a day to just over 1,000. This shows that deaths continue to lag infections, but are decreasing proportionally to infections.
Unfortunately, my investigation into Michigan’s numbers was more difficult to accomplish since the State’s website no longer publishes anything but today’s data and does not report data on the weekend. Most of the website is devoted to advice on vaccination, school opening, and social restrictions.
Despite this, after examining today’s Michigan data several things become obvious.
Concerns about hospital utilization are warranted, but only for a very few of the tertiary referral hospitals in the state. The hospitals with over 35 total patients with COVID-19 diagnosis include the Beaumont and Henry Ford Systems, with the largest populations in the state, along with the University of Michigan, Sparrow, Ascension Macomb, Covenant Healthcare, McLaren Port Huron Hospital, and St. Joseph Mercy Hospitals. The rest of the hospitals in the state have limited COVID-19 numbers, and overall hospital occupancy is only 72%, with 1,566 COVID patients total, 323 in ICU beds.
So, nationally the news about COVID-19 seems to be very good, most likely due to increased vaccinations. Michigan seems to have an increase in infections, although this is not readily documented on the state’s website. Unfortunately, a few hospitals are bearing the brunt of this increase in infections, but it is not overwhelming Michigan’s hospitals overall.
We need to finish vaccinating all adults to make sure that the decrease in infections and hospitalizations continues.