Hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the United States spend more time in the hospital and are more likely to require intensive care than patients in China, a new study says.
The findings suggest that the coronavirus pandemic may be putting greater strain on U.S. hospitals than previously assumed, according to researchers.
“The hospital resources needed to meet the needs of severely ill patients are substantial,” said lead author Joseph Lewnard, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley.
“We found that observations from China may not provide a sufficient basis for anticipating the U.S. health care demand,” he said in a university news release.
Lewnard and his colleagues analyzed the medical records of nearly 1,300 Kaiser Permanente members in California and Washington state who were hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 between the start of the year and early April.
Of those, 42% required intensive care, and 18% died of COVID-19. Estimates from China suggested that about 30% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients will require intensive care.
The researchers said their findings show the need to gather data in different regions and health care settings worldwide. They warned against relying on models based on data from other countries.
“The spread of COVID-19 and its impact on local health care systems show differences across the world,” said study co-author Vincent Liu, a research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Northern California.
He pointed out that health care systems differ and their capabilities and structure affect local response. As a result, it’s important to understand how local data compare to the experience seen in other countries.
The study also provided more evidence that older people are hit hardest by COVID-19. About 50% of hospitalizations were among adults 60 and older, and 25% among adults 73 and older.
And men seemed to be at greater risk than women. Hospitalized men older than 80 had a 58% risk of death, while the risk was 32% among hospitalized women of the same age.
The study did have some positive findings, showing that social distancing measures are successfully “flattening the curve” of new coronavirus transmission.
“Those efforts are going to be critical for this next phase, in which social distancing measures are gradually relaxed,” Liu said in the release. “We need our communities to stay really engaged, because these data show that even the actions of individuals and small groups can really impact the spread of the virus.”
The study was published online May 26 in the BMJ.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.