Like many Texans, I've been puzzled by the deluge of allegedly bad news about the increasing rate of COVID-19 infections in this state. The reports don't square with what I'm seeing around us here in north Texas, and certainly don't match up to what ward staff at our local hospital are reporting.
I was interested to read the account of an emergency clinic administrator in this state, who runs a number of so-called "doc-in-a-box" walk-in medical services facilities. He had this to say to the American Institute for Economic Research.
I am the Managing Partner and General Counsel of a Texas based company that owns and operates 13 free-standing emergency clinics in the State of Texas. I follow your reporting and wanted to share with you some information on Texas. I want people to hear this story as opposed to the mainstream reporting. However, I am sensitive about putting a target on myself or my company for conveying this information. I am not sure how you’ve handled this type of situation but I suspect you’ve had other people send you information who are concerned about becoming a target.
In June, we tested over 2,231 patients (data through last Thursday). Positive rate is now close to 20% (was 4-6% in May). Vast majority of the cases are mild to very mild symptoms. Average age of the people getting tested in mid-30s.
Very different patient (in terms of age) than we’ve seen before June. Most of these patients would not have met criteria that we previously had (and all the health facilities had) for Covid testing. Now with more testing kits we are able to test a broader group of patients.
Clinically, we’ve had very few hospital transfers because of Covid. Vast majority of the patients are better within 2-3 days of the visit and most would be described as having a cold (a mild one at that) or the symptoms related to allergies. We’ve often provided a steroid shot and some antibiotics. By the time we have follow-up calls, most of the patients are no longer experiencing any symptoms. They often say the shot really made a difference.
In terms of what is driving them to the ER — Roughly 1/2 have been told by their employers to get a test. They have a sneeze or a cough and their employer tells them to go get tested. The other 1/2 just want to know. They have mild symptoms (and some don’t have any symptoms but game the system and check a box that they have a symptom so they can get a test — they cannot get a test unless they present with symptoms. If they have no symptoms we send them away — which does happen.)
The average length of stay of Covid patients is 3-5 days. Much lower than the patients being seen in April and early May. Their symptoms are also milder. Most of the patients are not ending up in the ICU. The hospital ICUs are filled with really sick people with non-Covid issues. They [didn’t] come in earlier because they were scared and now they are super sick. From multiple sources at different hospitals — they have plenty of capacity and no shortage of acute care beds.
No real data on breakdown of patients who have Covid but are not in the hospital because of Covid. Recognition that because all patients are tested for Covid you have some percentage of patients listed as Covid patients who are non Covid symptomatic and that the hospitalization rate is somewhat driven by hospitals taking their normal patients with other medical issues.
Finally, heard several stories of how discharge planners are being pressured to put Covid as primary diagnosis — as that pays significantly better. Hospitals want to avoid the discussion but if they don’t they risk another shutdown. This may be an explanation for why there is a gap in hospital executives saying they have plenty of capacity and the increasing number of Covid hospitalizations. You open up your hospitals for normal medical care and you test everyone (sic) of those patients — the result is higher percentage of patients who have Covid — now.
Overall, based on what we are seeing at our facilities, the above information is really a positive story. You have more people testing positive with really minimal symptoms. This means that the fatality rate is less than commonly reported.
There's more at the link.
The second-last paragraph quoted above above is particularly important. I've heard exactly the same thing from staff at our local hospital. COVID-19 treatment is subsidized by the government, making such cases far more profitable for the hospital than general medical cases - so there's pressure from hospital administrators to classify as many admissions as possible as COVID-19 patients. In other words, if you're admitted for a heart attack, or stroke, or debilitating hangnail, or whatever, but you happen to test positive for the coronavirus, you're going to be classified as a coronavirus patient, even if you present no symptoms of it and are experiencing no difficulties from it. You may not even be informed of your classification until you read about it in correspondence from the hospital's billing department. I've encountered several people who've recently been to hospital, and have been startled and angered to find themselves classified as COVID-19 victims after the fact, when it had nothing to do with their admission.
So, when you read the doom-gloom-and-disaster reports about the "surge" in coronavirus cases in Texas, or our increasing "infection rate", or whatever, bear in mind that things are not always what the mainstream media says they are. Yes, the coronavirus is still with us; and yes, we should all still be observing basic precautions like wearing masks in public, observing social distancing, and washing our hands. These are basic precautions to which no sane person should object. Those of us in higher-risk groups (including yours truly) need to pay particular attention to them. However, we don't have to walk around in a state of panic-stricken anxiety.
As I pointed out a few days ago, "Beware the COVID-19 hype". Things are not necessarily as black as they're painted. There are hot spots where infection rates are higher, but they aren't the whole state. The news media are following their time-honored approach of "If it bleeds, it leads" - and they have no problem manufacturing a little extra blood here and there, if it means more readers and viewers for them, and more income.