Hospitalization Incidence: A New Coronavirus Alarm Value Has Its Worrying Pitfalls

Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Now that the threat of the Omicron variant is looming large, the governments in many countries are mulling about reintroducing lockdowns. (Image: via Pixabay)

Life has not been the same since the deadly coronavirus-induced pandemic hit the globe. Despite the repeated lockdowns and growth of vaccination drives on a global scale, the killer virus finds new ways of hitting back at humans. Now that the threat of the Omicron variant is looming large, the governments in many countries are mulling over reintroducing lockdowns.

You’ve seen the debates on television or social media, or even in your conversations.

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They go something like this: “We should reopen (schools, cities, states, countries) because the number of daily cases is down!” one person says. “No, no, you have to look at the death rate! That’s a lagging indicator and is still going up!” says another person. “And our hospitalization rate is still way too high!” a third person chimes in.

In this pandemic, there are many different metrics used to measure the situation. Each has its usefulness and its limitations.

Clinics to decide reintroduction of coronavirus lockdowns

In the United States, administration officials are now relying on the burden on clinics to decide the reintroduction of coronavirus lockdowns region-wise. However, experts argue that can prove to be a tedious way. 

The clinical experts largely think whether a state or region is suitable for putting under lockdown restrictions will be decided by the instances of hospitalizations. However, the reality is that value should be considered with a bit of caution.

You have to think of how the hospitalization incidence is calculated in the first place. The basis is generally the number of COVID cases in a state in a week requiring hospitalization. The place of the patient here is decisive. The number is then divided by the state population and multiplied by 100,000.

Hospitalization incidence is the number of COVID coronavirus cases in a state in a week requiring hospitalization.
Hospitalization incidence is the number of COVID cases in a state in a week requiring hospitalization. (Image: via Pixabay)

The hospitalization metric

So in a state with 1,213 hospital admissions out of 13,154,738 residents will result in a hospitalization incidence above 9. The new crisis mechanism has been divided into 3 phases — factors 9, 6, and 3. In the above example, level 3 is applicable. The 3 levels are:

Level 1

National level access rules are applicable only for convalescent and vaccinated lots.

Level 2

Test certificates and other measures for vaccinated and convalescent people.

Level 3

Enforcement of more rigid restriction measures like banning of events. 

The incidence of the hospitalization metric is not meaningful enough. This is what the experts and doctors think. The menace of delay in reporting is hard to tackle. There can be several days existing between hospital admission and detection of the infection. So the disparity can make it hard to figure out the exact number of hospitalized persons in a given week. 

The hospitalization rate is, therefore, not a current figure and the value does not reveal the real load on hospitals in a week. (Image: Steve Callahan via Dreamstime)

Reality is not always shown here

The coronavirus hospitalization rate is, therefore, not a current figure and the value does not reveal the real load on hospitals in a week. It is also hard to compare one state with another for infection and hospitalization rates. U.S. states may be faster or slower when it comes to reporting cases and hospitalizations and that makes the situation more tedious.

The German Hospital Association blames the deficit in data collection. CEO Gerald Gass says: “To date, there is no digital reporting process in which the hospitals report to the health authorities daily using the software. What happens on paper, by fax, and is the reason for the sometimes high differences. Reality is not always shown here.” This deficit must be resolved to ensure a uniform reporting procedure.

Jens Spahn, who is the acting German Federal Minister of Health, agrees that the hospitalization incidence is not flawless. A section of experts thinks relying only on the hospitalization incidence for imposing stringent measures is inadequate.

It is necessary to analyze factors like the incidence of new infections as well as the load on intensive care units, region-wise. The clinics will gain from deploying a COVID-19-Radar that covers daily parameters. These comprise COVID-19 sufferers, people infected with coronavirus, people who died from COVID-19, etc. 

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