Nearly half of all patients labeled as “COVID-19 hospitalizations” in Massachusetts were actually admitted for reasons other than coronavirus, but happened to test positive for the virus upon admission.
The revelation surfaced this week as, for the first time in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health began making a distinction between COVID-19 patients hospitalized with “primary” and “incidental” cases.
The new reporting guidelines revealed that 51% of the state’s 3,187 “COVID-19 hospitalizations” reported on Jan. 18 were patients who were ill from coronavirus, while 49% were admitted for other issues but tested positive for COVID-19 at the time of admission.
Dr. Shira Doron – an epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center in Boston – revealed that the number of patients being treated for severe COVID-19 was considerably lower than 50% of all COVID-19 hospitalizations at her hospital.
“One day was as low as 36%,” Doron told NBC10 Boston. “The state actually called and said, ‘Are you sure that it’s only 36%?’ And so we took a look and indeed, none of those patients were receiving any supplemental oxygen.”
“We looked at what the other hospitals were reporting that day and we found that we weren’t an outlier in that,” Doron added. “And so I think that, you know, from Massachusetts, where again, we do mandatory testing of everybody on admission, we may find relatively lower than expected, I think, proportions of patients receiving that drug, which is the standard of care.”
“To identify patients admitted for COVID-19, the Baker administration is using the drug dexamethasone as a proxy,” the Boston Globe reported. “The powerful steroid, used to quell the inflammatory storm in severely ill COVID patients, is also commonly used to treat other conditions, such as septic shock or swelling in the brain.”
Patients who test positive for COVID-19 but do not receive dexamethasone will be counted as “incidental.”
Dr. Maren Batalden of the Cambridge Health Alliance told WBZ-TV that individuals who are prescribed dexamethasone are “a good measure of those patients who are admitted to the hospital with COVID who have serious respiratory infection or serious respiratory complication.”
This is an excerpt from TheBlaze.
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