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VERIFY: Yes, COVID hospitalizations are on the rise in D.C., Maryland and Virginia as cases surge

During a recent interview, Dr. Fauci underscored the importance of hospitalization data to understand the severity.
Credit: AP
FILE - Jack Kingsley R.N. attends to a COVID-19 patient in the Medical Intensive care unit at St. Luke's Boise Medical Center in Boise, Idaho.

WASHINGTON — With each new day, we’re hearing of more and more COVID-19 cases, as the omicron variant continues to spread. But during a recent interview, America’s top doc said you should also look at hospitalizations.

“You obviously want to pay attention to the number of infections, because they could be the forerunner of severity, but if you have a lot of infections, and less severity, it's much more important to focus on hospitalizations," Dr. Fauci said during a Dec. 21 interview which aired on CNN.

Our Verify researchers spoke with three infectious disease doctors who all agreed that with omicron, hospitalization data gives you a good indication of how sick people are getting.

“From the very beginning of this pandemic, we talked about flattening the curve," Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, said. "That flattening of the curve was about preserving hospital capacity, and that's what we continue to have to focus on."

Experts explain that COVID case numbers are a good indicator for things like, where the virus is spreading and how it's spreading. Meanwhile, hospitalization and death statistics are good indicators for how severe and lethal the pervasive strains are.

“I certainly think that hospitalizations and deaths—those very hard data that describe the most serious impact of this virus on our society—they are the best indicators of really the seriousness of the problem, as opposed to cases," Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University, said.

Dr. Ali Mokdad, Chief Strategy Officer of Population Health and the University of Washington, agreed that hospitalization numbers are best to use at this point in the pandemic given what we know about omicron's transmissibility.

“Right now, because everybody's getting infected, the sheer number of infections make the number of cases irrelevant at this stage," Dr. Mokdad said.

So are the number of hospitalizations in the DC area on the rise?

THE QUESTION:

Is the number of COVID-positive hospitalized patients rising in D.C., Maryland and Virginia?

THE SOURCES:

THE ANSWER:

Hospitalizations are trending upwards in all three jurisdictions 

WHAT WE FOUND:

Our Verify researchers looked at COVID hospital numbers from local DC-area health departments and found that, yes, the numbers are rising.

As of Dec. 23, there were 1,447 people hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19. Another 127 hospitalized patients are awaiting COVID-19 test results, Virginia's Department of Health reported.

In Maryland, as of Dec. 22, COVID hospitalizations reached 1,505. Because of this, the state's health department announced new measures on Thursday, including reducing 'non-urgent and elective procedures and surgeries.'

When last checked, D.C. hospitals had 164 COVID-19 patients admitted, according to DC Health. That's the highest number of hospitalized COVID patients since March 10, 2021, according to DC Health records.

The CDC says that the vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness from COVID, even with omicron.

"Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the omicron variant," the CDC said. "However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur. With other variants, like delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. The recent emergence of omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters." 

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