INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana hospitals are seeing the highest number of COVID-19 patients since the pandemic. For the third day in a row, the state set a record for COVID-19 hospitalizations. It reported 1,948 Hoosiers in the hospital with COVID-19 as of Wednesday.
In mid-April, Indiana hit a peak for COVID-19 hospitalizations with 1,799 patients and the state recorded its highest weekly averages for COVID-19 deaths during the weeks after.
Despite similar hospitalizations in the fall compared to the spring, the number of deaths does not seem as high right now. However, the Regenstrief Institute warns data on COVID-19 deaths lags behind hospitalizations by a couple of weeks.
“We are worried it is going up and so we likely have not seen the highest number of deaths yet until we get further into November,” said Brian Dixon, Director of public health informatics at Regenstrief Institute.
The 7-day moving average for COVID-19 deaths in Indiana is just slightly under the peak set in late-April. Dixon said all signs are the state is going to see more deaths in the coming weeks.
“The death rate has been rising over the last several weeks. So, we haven’t hit the peak. Even though the deaths are a little bit lower than where they were in late April, that was a continuation of deaths that began in March,” Dixon explained.
On April 23, 1,515 patients were in Indiana hospitals for COVID-19 and the state recorded 38 deaths that day. Six months later, on October 21, the same number of people were in the hospital, but 29 deaths were recorded. The 7-day moving average for COVID-19 deaths was also lower that week in October than that week in April.
The lower numbers could be attributed to the lag in data on deaths, but it may also suggest our hospitals are more prepared to treat patients. Dixon agreed with that.
Dr. Chris Weaver, Senior Vice President of Clinical Effectiveness for IU Health, said health care professionals have learned a lot about the virus over the last couple of months. Early on, doctors believed ventilators treated patients better and decreased the spread to others.
“As we have gone through, this we have learned that that’s not the best form,” Weaver said. “We are better off going to what we call high flow oxygen. Just different ways to deliver oxygen than putting them on a ventilator.”
There are also more treatments available, like Remdesivir.
Weaver is noticing Indiana University hospitals across the state do not have as many people on the ventilator and ICU, despite hospitalizations being as high as in April.
“It does seem like things have changed as far as the vast numbers of people that are both dying and requiring ventilators and I think it is mixed reasons,” he said. “The morbidity and mortality of the disease seems to be different whether it is people that are getting it or something different with the virus or not, can’t say, and our treatments. We have learned a lot.”
Dixon with the Regenstrief Institute noted Indiana’s mortality rate is higher per capita than surrounding states. Even though the number of people dying every day is not as high as in late April, Dixon said the state is trending worse than some neighboring states.