Estimated Fraction of Incidental COVID Hospitalizations in a Cohort of 250 High-Volume Hospitals Located in 164 Counties

Incidental COVID infections appear to be a nontrivial fraction of all COVID-positive hospitalized patients. In the aggregate, however, the burden of patients admitted for complications of their viral infections appears to be far greater.

Estimated Fraction of Incidental COVID Hospitalizations in a Cohort of 250 High-Volume Hospitals Located in 164 Counties
Whiskers-on-Box Plots of Weekly Confirmed COVID Incidence per 100,000 Population in the 164 Counties Containing the 250 Study Hospitals, Weeks Ending December 19, 2021 Through January 9, 2022. For each week, the 5th, 25th, 50th, 75th, and 95th percentiles are superimposed upon the individual county-specific datapoints. A total of 11 datapoints with zero incident cases are omitted from the first two weeks. Source: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.01.22.22269700v1

New Pre-Print Posted on MedRxiv.

Scattered reports have suggested that as many as one-half of all hospital inpatients identified as COVID-positive are incidental cases who were admitted primarily for reasons other than their viral infections. To date, however, there are no systematic studies of a representative panel of hospitals based on pre-established criteria for determining whether an individual patient was in fact admitted as a result of the disease. To fill this gap, we developed a formula to estimate the fraction of incidental COVID hospitalizations that relies upon measurable, population-based parameters.

Among COVID-positive hospitalized patients, 15.2% were estimated to be incidental infections. Across individual counties, the median fraction of incidental COVID hospitalizations was 13.7%, with an interquartile range of 9.5 to 18.4%

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