States throughout the U.S. are failing to distinguish between patients hospitalized because of COVID-19 and patients who merely test positive for the disease while being hospitalized for other reasons.
Hospitalizations have for months been viewed as one of the critical indicators of the coronavirus pandemic: Countries worldwide have relied heavily on the number of patients sent to hospitals because of the virus as a way of measuring how severe a region or a nation’s outbreak really is.
In the United States, as in most other countries, one of the chief concerns of the pandemic has been whether or not hospitals have enough capacity to treat surges in COVID patients in addition to more routine procedures and emergency issues. The most recent surge in positive COVID-19 tests, which began in early October, has led to record highs of hospitalized COVID-positive patients.
The COVID Tracking Project, a group of public health experts and journalists who have been collecting COVID-19 data from state health departments since early 2020, currently lists over 125,000 hospitalized COVID patients nationwide, roughly double the earlier peaks seen in the spring and summer.