COVID-19 Death Rates are Falling

A new study found that the COVID-19 death rate in New York has dropped significantly since March.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) death rates have dropped from the highs seen at the start of the outbreak, according to a study published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused over 1.1 million deaths and there have been more than 41.5 million confirmed cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. New York City was hit particularly hard in early March, with tens of thousands dying from COVID-19. It was believed that infection would remain as deadly in the following months, according to the study.

The study looked at 5263 records of patients with COVID-19 treated at New York University Langone Hospitals in New York City and Long Island between March 1 and August 8. Investigators developed a model that predicted the likelihood of death for each patient by taking into account risk-factors for the disease as well as indicators of disease severity.

The likelihood of death was, on average, 22 percentage points lower in August than in March for the most critically ill patients. However, the average age of hospitalization also dropped from 63 to 47 in the same time period.

Additionally, in March, 73% had a chronic condition, such as diabetes or lung disease, whereas by mid-June only 65% had such risk factors, according to the study. This indicates that the virus shifted from a more vulnerable population to a more resilient one, according to the study authors.

"Our findings suggest that while COVID-19 remains a terrible disease, our efforts to improve treatment are probably working," said study lead author Leora Horwitz, MD, in the press release. "Even in the absence of a silver-bullet treatment or vaccine, we are protecting more of our patients through a host of small changes.”

Investigators caution that even though the COVID-19 death rate is falling, it is still a very serious disease with symptoms often continuing long after the hospital stay ends, such as fatigue, lung damage, and blood clots. According to the study, the next step for the investigators is to expand the investigation to care facilities outside of New York.

Reference:

Study helps explain declines in death rates from COVID-19 [news release] October 22, 2020; New York, NY. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/nlh-she102120.php. Accessed October 23, 2020.