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Death Rates Are Dropping for New Yorkers With COVID-19 -- Why?

THURSDAY, Oct. 29, 2020 -- Fewer New Yorkers than anticipated are dying from COVID-19, a new study reveals.

Death rates have dropped from the pandemic's early days because of a shift in the population that is getting infected to younger, healthier people who are more resilient, New York University (NYU) researchers reported.

For the study, the researchers collected data on more than 5,200 patients treated for COVID-19 at NYU Langone hospitals in New York City and Long Island between March 1 and Aug. 8, 2020. New York was an early epicenter of the pandemic.

By mid-August, the death rate among those hospitalized with COVID-19 was about 8% versus 26% earlier in the outbreak.

But patients' youth and underlying health accounted for only some of the improvement in survival. The rest owed to health care providers becoming more experienced with the infection, the researchers said. For example, resting COVID-19 patients on their stomachs rather than their backs ("proning") and delaying use of ventilators proved more effective, as were some drugs.

Other factors -- like decreasing hospital volumes, less exposure to infection, and earlier testing and treatment -- may have contributed.

"Our findings suggest that while COVID-19 remains a terrible disease, our efforts to improve treatment are probably working," said lead author Dr. Leora Horwitz. She's an associate professor in the department of population health at NYU Langone Health in New York City.

"Even in the absence of a silver-bullet treatment or vaccine, we are protecting more of our patients through a host of small changes," she said in an NYU news release.

On average, death rates for most critically ill patients were 18 percentage points lower in August than in March. The average age of hospitalized COVID-19 patients also dropped from 63 to 47 over the period, the study authors said.

According to senior author Dr. Christopher Petrilli, an assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone, "Other pandemic hotspots should take hope from the lessons learned here in New York. If we can do better at managing the disease, they can, too."

The findings were published online Oct. 23 in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

© 2021 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: October 2020

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