How many lives is hospitalization saving in the pandemic?

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

Do we have evidence that hospitalization of COVID19 patients is actually saving significant numbers of lives?

I’ve now seen multiple studies suggesting that up to 80 or 90 percent of patients who end up on ventilators ultimately die. At this point, I guess there’s no way to know if the other 10 percent would have lived without the ventilators. From what I can tell, most other hospitalized patients are getting supplemental oxygen, IV fluids and antibiotics. I have not seen any evidence on the effectiveness of these treatments. Many of those patients live, but we don’t know whether they would have recovered without hospitalization. It would obviously be impossible to do a RCT on that at the moment.

Answering the question about the efficacy of hospitalization would seem to be critical, though, since, as best I can tell, the main justification for shutting down society now is to prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed — especially the supply of ventilators. If our hospitals are overwhelmed, not only COVID19 patients, but others with treatable injuries/diseases might die. But if hospitalization is not actually saving COVID19 patients in large numbers, then all the costly social interventions we are implementing now are mostly just delaying the spread of infection.


  1. Harry Jones says:

    Isn’t delaying the spread part of the plan? Flatten the curve, buy time for a real solution to come online.

  2. Graham says:

    That last bit struck me as well. I thought delay was our temporary but necessary tactic.

    The Fabian approach to pandemic control.

    Maybe that post is a sign of utilitarianism splitting off from practicality, as so often.

    In a narrow sense- there’s probably something in it. If hospitalization is not helping it’ll be worth knowing that.

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