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  • Writer's pictureAletheia

Hospitalizations and ICUs and Deaths, OH MY!

PHMDC has three favorite COVID bogeymen it has repeatedly leveraged to terrify Dane County residents: hospitalizations, ICU occupancy, and deaths. In fact, these three items have provided the justification for Janel Heinrich's perpetual emergency orders and mask mandates. Isn't it high time we see if all the hype is merited?

As usual, PHMDC has used its COVID dashboard as the linchpin for ginning up fear and spreading it to you and me. Below is a Dec 17th, 2021, screenshot of dashboard screen 7, which gives us the whole kit and caboodle--bar graphs of daily COVID inpatients and ICU occupancy, as well as month-by-month COVID deaths:

I'll start at the top, with PHMDC's daily count of COVID-positive inpatients, but I want to clarify two things up front.

First, PHMDC's COVID inpatient and ICU graphs don't represent only Dane County residents. Madison, in particular, has advanced medical facilities that draw lots of people from outside our county. PHMDC takes raw daily COVID inpatient and ICU numbers from EMResource, a database that provides no breakdown of county residence. So, we must logically assume that the number of actual COVID-positive Dane County residents in this county's hospitals is routinely lower than the number recorded on the inpatient or ICU graph for any given day.

Second, a COVID hospitalization is defined simply as someone who tests positive on or after admission. A positive COVID test doesn't necessarily mean an individual was necessarily admitted because of COVID and, in fact, may not indicate any serious health threat; a person testing positive may, in fact, remain totally asymptomatic. In addition, in 2021 hospitals stopped testing for COVID on admission. This change in policy means that COVID inpatients and ICU occupancy undoubtedly skewed higher prior to that change. (More on this problem another day.)

Daily Inpatients

With these facts now in place, let's examine the all-time view of the total daily inpatient graph, honing in on Aug 1 through Dec 16, 2020, then compare that date range to the same period in 2021. The two waves look different, yes? But how...? PHMDC allows us to pop each of these graphs out on their own, making things easier to see. For ease, I've roughly highlighted the relevant date ranges:

We can immediately see that compared to 2020's precipitous spike in October and November, the 2021 wave of COVID-related occupancy was broader and lower. It started about two months earlier in 2021, beginning to rise in August, remaining relatively stable through October, then climbing a bit more in November. However, COVID clearly failed to attain the same inpatient highs as in 2020.

If you explore the graph yourself, you can place a cursor over the highest bar on the entire graph to discover that Dane County's single heaviest COVID inpatient load to date occurred on Nov 18, 2020 (179 inpatients). The highest load for the same range in 2021 occurred just recently, on Dec 16 (just 131 inpatients). Again, this number represents total inpatients, spread across multiple hospitals, and one only has to test positive for COVID to be included as a COVID patient, whether one actually has symptoms or not.

To make the differences in the waves even clearer, I used PHMDC's data to create a side-by-side comparison of 2020 and 2021 across the specified date range (Aug 1 through Dec 16):

We'll see what January and February 2022 bring, but so far, the so-called Delta variant hasn't produced anything in 2021 that our hospitals shouldn't be able to handle--provided they're not firing staff or making it impossible for them to keep working in order to maintain bodily autonomy.

I've also used PHMDC's data to calculate average daily inpatient occupancy for this date range in both 2020 and 2021. Turns out it's 82 inpatients for both years. So, inpatient load hasn't decreased year-over-year...but it hasn't increased either. Only the distribution of inpatients across the four and a half month period changed.

ICU Occupancy

We gain additional valuable perspective by considering the same date ranges on the ICU graph:

Since daily COVID-related ICU occupancy is a subset of daily COVID inpatients, it's not a big surprise to find that similarities exist between the two graphs for the same date ranges. Below is a side-by-side comparison of COVID occupancy in both 2020 and 2021 for the Aug 1 through Dec 16 period, once again using PHMDC's data.

As with COVID inpatients, 2020 COVID ICU occupancy rose in early October, peaking on November 18th and 19th (49 ICU patients both days). We can also see the same early appearance of the 2021 COVID inpatient wave reflected in ICU occupancy; it rises in mid-August, remains stable until early November, takes a slight dip, then climbs a bit further. The high mark for 2021 COVID ICU occupancy during the same time range occurs on Dec 1st and 2nd (45 patients both days).

Now to the ICU patient averages...

While the average number of COVID-related inpatients stayed the same for Aug 1 through Dec 16 in 2020 and 2021, the average number of COVID-related ICU patients rose from 22 in 2020 to 28 in 2021. That's a year-over-year (YOY) COVID ICU patient increase of 27%.

These findings not only beg serious questions but merit full exploration. Why, for example, when PHMDC says that, as of Dec 13, 2021, nearly 73% of Dane County residents had been double-vaccinated, have we not seen any decrease in the average number of inpatients year-over-year? (see screen 9 below)

Moreover, if masks are supposed to protect us, why have we seen a significant increase in the average number of COVID ICU patients?

Don't get me wrong. Your chances of contracting COVID in this county have remained incredibly low (more coming on that soon, too). The chances of ending up in the hospital with COVID in Dane County have stayed even lower. However, we can already see that, the masks clearly haven't worked to reduce COVID illness resulting in hospital or ICU admissions. If masks and the other "solutions" Janel Heinrich enforces via her emergency orders haven't worked to achieve better outcomes over the last 22 months, what value do they actually have? It's a question we should all be asking ourselves and Dane County's so-called leadership.

Deaths...OH MY!

Of all the bogeymen Dane County leadership loves to invoke, death is their favorite. The Board of Health for Madison and Dane County (BOH), for example, made sure to hammer home the continued risk of death by COVID two weeks ago when its members attempted to submarine Dane County Supervisor Jeff Weigand's 2021 RES-157. PHMDC makes sure to place the entirely uncontextualized cumulative death number in large digits on screen 1 of the dashboard. (see the screenshot below)

How 'bout we cut through the haze by looking at the last of screen 7's three graphs: PHMDC's monthly count of COVID-related deaths. The stacked bar graph, separates those who've tested positive for COVID at time of death ("confirmed" COVID deaths) from "probable" COVID deaths (for which only suspicion exists that an individual was COVID-positive at death). To their credit, PHMDC doesn't include "probable" deaths in their cumulative death count on screen 1. On the screenshot below, I've noted the numbers for any month where a bar was too short to display numbers properly:

This graph is not at all difficult to understand and provides incredibly valuable, fear-quelling information--which almost certainly explains why PHMDC buried it on one of the last pages of the dashboard. Again, they're infamous for burying the lead.

The reality? Year-over-year, COVID deaths have all but entirely dried up in Dane County. In fact, so far we're on track to see fewer deaths for this year's flu season overall. Here's the month-by-month, side-by-side comparison, noting what amounts to nearly a 40% decrease in deaths year-over-year

This huge drop alone should have us asking ourselves why in the heck we're still letting PHMDC terrify us with their constant COVID death chant.

Now add in this little factoid: Using CDC statistics, a Harvard Medical School instructor recently calculated a 92% decrease in U.S. flu deaths during the 2020-2021 flu season by comparing it with an average of the four prior seasons (2016 through 2020).

In other words, COVID didn't add significantly to the level of deaths we normally experience in a flu season. It essentially replaced the deaths we see every year.

Summing Up

Putting together everything we've just learned, then...

Inpatient load overall isn't increasing, but it's also not decreasing. If masks worked to prevent illness, as PHMDC claims, we'd certainly see lowered COVID inpatient and ICU numbers...right?


PHMDC can't, then, turn around and claim that masks have significantly contributed to--or resulted in--this county's shriveling COVID death count. Something else is responsible for the lowered deaths in Dane County. Whatever it is, it's not the tyrannical policies of Queen Janel, PHMDC, or the BOH.

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