New York State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) and President Trump sparred over how many ventilators the state was short. DIYers brainstormed modifications to treat more patients. And ethicists agonized over how to allocate them fairly if we run out.
Now five weeks into the crisis, a paper published in the journal JAMA about New York State’s largest health system suggests a reality that like so much else about the novel coronavirus, confounds our early expectations.
Researchers found that 20 percent of all those hospitalized died — a finding that’s similar to the percentage who perish in normal times among those who are admitted for respiratory distress.
But the numbers diverge more for the critically ill put on ventilators. Eighty-eight percent of the 320 covid-19 patients on ventilators who were tracked in the study died. That compares with the roughly 80 percent of patients who died on ventilators before the pandemic, according to previous studies — and with the roughly 50 percent death rate some critical care doctors had optimistically hoped when the first cases were diagnosed.
“For those who have a severe enough course to require hospitalization through the emergency department it is a sad number,” said Karina W. Davidson, the study’s lead author and a professor at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell.