A majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations during the South African Omicron variant wave weren’t actually for the virus, a new study has found.
Sixty-three percent of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in South Africa during the surge had “incidental” COVID-19 diagnoses, meaning they were admitted to the hospital for a separate reason and tested positive for the virus once there. Virtually every metric for hospitalized patients improved when compared to previous waves, from ICU admittance rate to death rate to average length of stay.
ICU admissions fell from 21.3% to 4.5%, and deaths fell from 4.3% to 1%. The average length of stay required for COVID-19 patients was four days, compared to 8.8 days in previous waves. The average age of patients was 10 years younger, at 39 compared to 49. At the peak of the wave, hospital bed occupancy was only 51% of previous waves, researchers found.
Only 45% of those admitted to the hospital needed supplemental oxygen, versus 99.5% during previous waves.