Dr. Jeffrey Klausner is an infectious disease specialist at USC’s Keck School of Medicine and has been taking a hard look at COVID numbers since the start of the pandemic. He put out a brilliant piece in The Hill.
Dr. Klausner talked to John & Ken about why today's COVID statistics are not accurate and should not be used to dictate policy.
Remember the days of “flatten the curve,” the idea that we had to preserve hospital capacity through efforts to reduce the spread of infection? That curve was the number of hospital admissions due to COVID-19 and reasonably reflected the number of people admitted to hospitals severely ill with COVID-19. Now, however, due to the continued universal screening of all hospital admissions, a majority of reported COVID-19 hospitalizations are not hospitalized “for” COVID-19 but “with” COVID-19.
I and several colleagues recently took a deep dive into COVID hospitalization at the Los Angeles County public hospital. Among 462 COVID hospitalizations, only 32 percent required oxygen, the most basic therapy for COVID-19, suggesting that the other 68 percent were admitted for reasons other than COVID-19.
Like testing results and hospitalizations, death counts are also an overestimate of deaths caused by COVID-19. There are various reasons why a positive COVID-19 test result might be added to a death certificate resulting in the reporting of COVID-19 related death in someone who only tested positive during their hospitalization because they were tested on admission.
In general, we rely on organizations like the CDC to conduct surveillance and monitoring of diseases in the United States. Over the decades the CDC has created and maintained robust systems for disease monitoring that include sentinel surveillance — where a select group of clinics or hospitals is intensively monitored for specific diseases, population-based surveys — where individuals are randomly sampled for the presence or absence of disease, and case reporting. Unfortunately, case reporting, which we are relying on now to understand COVID-19 in the United States is the weakest type of surveillance for an ongoing pandemic.