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Menachemi N, Dixon BE, Wools-Kaloustian KK, Yiannoutsos CT, Halverson PK. How Many SARS-CoV-2-Infected People Require Hospitalization? Using Random Sample Testing to Better Inform Preparedness Efforts. Journal of public health management and practice : JPHMP. 2021 May 1; 27(3):246-250.
CONTEXT: Existing hospitalization ratios for COVID-19 typically use case counts in the denominator, which problematically underestimates total infections because asymptomatic and mildly infected persons rarely get tested. As a result, surge models that rely on case counts to forecast hospital demand may be inaccurately influencing policy and decision-maker action. OBJECTIVE: Based on SARS-CoV-2 prevalence data derived from a statewide random sample (as opposed to relying on reported case counts), we determine the infection-hospitalization ratio (IHR), defined as the percentage of infected individuals who are hospitalized, for various demographic groups in Indiana. Furthermore, for comparison, we show the extent to which case-based hospitalization ratios, compared with the IHR, overestimate the probability of hospitalization by demographic group. DESIGN: Secondary analysis of statewide prevalence data from Indiana, COVID-19 hospitalization data extracted from a statewide health information exchange, and all reported COVID-19 cases to the state health department. SETTING: State of Indiana as of April 30, 2020. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Demographic-stratified IHRs and case-hospitalization ratios. RESULTS: The overall IHR was 2.1% and varied more by age than by race or sex. Infection-hospitalization ratio estimates ranged from 0.4% for those younger than 40 years to 9.2% for those older than 60 years. Hospitalization rates based on case counts overestimated the IHR by a factor of 10, but this overestimation differed by demographic groups, especially age. CONCLUSIONS: In this first study of the IHR based on population prevalence, our results can improve forecasting models of hospital demand-especially in preparation for the upcoming winter period when an increase in SARS CoV-2 infections is expected.