Nearly two years into the pandemic, Massachusetts hospitals will make a distinction between patients who were hospitalized “for” coronavirus and those who were hospitalized “with” the virus.
Massachusetts’ Department of Public Health (DPH) announced on Thursday the coronavirus reporting changes would begin next week, noting whether hospitalizations are “primary or incidental” to coronavirus.
Nearly seventy-five percent of Massachusetts residents are fully vaccinated against the virus.
DPH’s move comes as the state deals with the impact of the omicron variant. As of Tuesday, 2,426 patients were hospitalized as a result of coronavirus.
Massachusetts’ announcement came the same week New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a similar change to her state’s coronavirus reporting scheme. Hochul asked:
How many people are being hospitalized because of COVID symptoms? How many people are happened to be testing positive just while they’re in there for other treatments? I think that’s important. I just want to always be honest with New Yorkers about how bad this is.
“Yes, the sheer numbers of people infected are high, but I want to see whether or not the hospitalizations correlate with that,” Hochul added.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker questioned the state’s reporting methods for months before Thursday’s official announcement. Baker said last October:
When you call the hospitals and you talk to them one at a time, or the systems, a significant number of the people who they — who we — count as COVID positive are not in the hospital because they have COVID. They’re in the hospital for some other purpose and they got tested positive when they came in.
Massachusetts state representative John Santiago, a Boston Medical Center emergency room doctor, recently noted on Twitter that a “significant number of my COVID patients fell into 2 buckets: mild symptoms & discharged OR were admitted for non-COVID reasons BUT tested positive for COVID.”
A significant number of my COVID patients fell into 2 buckets: mild symptoms & discharged OR were admitted for non-COVID reasons BUT tested positive for COVID (all admitted patients are tested).
Of course, that presents a different set of challenges but…
— Jon Santiago (@IamJonSantiago) January 3, 2022
As the state changes its reporting system, it also deals with hospital staffing shortages. DPH has 8,775 statewide hospital beds and 1,256 ICU beds that could be staffed within 24 hours. Compared to one year ago, there were 9,254 hospital beds and 1,458 ICU beds.