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By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Patient on ventilator (Image source: Public domain)
With much of the shock over the coronavirus disbursed, what's left if the dismay and hard truths. One of those hard truths is that while so much is being done to get more ventilators in the New York hospital system, 88 percent of the people who go on them die.
The ventilators have been such an issue that it caused a big skirmish between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Donald Trump. The president insisted there were enough to go around while the governor was insisting that the federal government should be lending assistance.
Weeks later a paper published in the JAMA journal says researchers found that 20 percent of all coronavirus patients in New York State's largest health system died. This is, incidentally, the same statistic for people admitted for respiratory distress under normal circumstances.
When COVID-19 was first being diagnosed, there was hope for a 50-percent death rate. But for 320 patients put on ventilators, 88 percent died. That number is a little higher than the roughly 80 percent who died after being placed on ventilators before the pandemic.
"For those who have a severe enough course to require hospitalization through the emergency department, it is a sad number," admitted Karina W. Davidson, the lead author of the study and a professor at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell.
The mortality rates could have gotten better. The study was conducted between March 1 and April 4. The electronic medical records of 5,700 COVID-19 patients at Northwell Health's 12 hospitals in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County were analyzed. Only patients who left the hospital in one way or another, dying or being discharged, were included. Half of the patients were still being treated. It's unknown what their final outcomes were.
"It's important to look to American data as we have different resources in our health-care system and different demographics in our populations," said Davidson.
Of those 5,700 COVID-19 patients, 60 percent were male and 40 percent female. The average age was 63. Of those hospitalized, 57 percent had hypertension, 41 percent were obese, and 34 percent had diabetes, known risk factors the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have listed. What isn't among the larger risk factors is asthma. It's not as big of a threat as it was initially assumed it would be.
Also of note is that 70 percent of the patients who were admitted did not have a fever, though that is consistently perceived as a determining factor of COVID-19. Early on in the diagnoses, people were not allowed to be tested if they did not have a fever.
As a result of this research, Davidson said Northwell is encouraging people with underlying health conditions seen as big risk factors, who have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 yet don't have a fever, consult with a doctor right away.
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