While influenza and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) spread rapidly this fall – flooding and overwhelming hospitals and their staff across the country – Covid did not.
Indeed, deaths and hospitalizations linked to Covid have fallen in recent months, despite the emergence of new omicron subvariants that evade immunity from previous infections and vaccination.
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According to data from NBC News, Covid deaths have fallen steadily since August 31, when the seven-day average of daily Covid deaths was 571. A month later, on September 30, the number fell to 475. On Halloween, 365 were dying a day, on average, from Covid.
By November 14, the number had fallen to 316.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to release new Covid-related mortality data this week, finding that death rates began to decline in March 2022.
The overall encouraging sign of falling deaths could point to another new phase of Covid, doctors suggest. Fewer people sick enough to be hospitalized with Covid means fewer people dying from the disease.
The average number of Covid hospitalizations per day has fallen by 27.9% since August 28, according to data from NBC News.
Even better, Covid, it seems, is no longer sending the majority of patients to intensive care units.
“There has not been an increase in the number of patients admitted to hospital for a specific Covid-related illness,” said Dr Hugh Cassiere, director of intensive care services at Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital in the North Shore University Hospital, part of Northwell Health in New York.
Patients in its intensive care unit with Covid were admitted with unrelated medical issues, and later tested positive for Covid, Cassiere said.
“Not to say it’s gone, but Covid has become a fortuitous illness,” he said.
Dr. Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist and affiliate faculty member at the University of Washington in Seattle, attributes the drop in deaths and severe Covid cases to a level of “built-in immunity,” including vaccination, prior infection or a combination of both.
Although Covid-related hospitalizations are not currently increasing, Gupta warns that they could during the winter, as immunity, especially against previous infection, wanes.
“If you had Covid, say six to four months ago, you will have less protection against hospitalization than if you were vaccinated,” Gupta said. “The duration and robustness of protection decreases much faster if you rely only on natural immunity.”
With that in mind, data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a research center at the University of Washington, suggests that Covid hospitalizations and deaths could resume “by mid-January at the earliest”, a said Gupta, a medical analyst. for NBC News and MSNBC.
On Tuesday, Dr Ashish Jha, the White House’s Covid response coordinator, suggested we are unlikely to see another Covid surge this winter.
“We are in a very different place and we will stay in a different place,” Jha told a meeting of health officials, coordinated by Stat News. He added that he was “living his life” like he did in 2019.
Despite the encouraging decline in Covid deaths, another school of thought suggests that Covid has simply morphed into a new type of deadly disease.
“Before everyone was vaccinated or infected, 80 or 90% of Covid looked exactly the same. They had terrible pneumonia. They were in intensive care on life support,” said Dr Jeremy Faust , an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. and instructor at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
Now, he said, “Covid deaths are not all alike.” Although “built-in immunity” can keep the most severe cases to a minimum, it is clear that Covid can wreak havoc on the body long after the infection is gone.
“Somebody could have Covid and have a heart attack, and the leading cause of death is listed as a heart attack because that’s what really got them into the hospital,” Faust said.
But, he added, “we will never know to what extent Covid triggered this heart attack”.
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