The 3 pandemic metrics that could tell us what’s next

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      That’s why some experts said they were also looking specifically at the number of ICU patients admitted with Covid-19, more likely to be a real indicator of a severe Covid case, and the number of deaths attributed to the virus. Increases in those numbers would be a sign of something worrisome, either the virus evolving to become more lethal or existing immunity starting to wane.

      ICU beds filling up would also mean the hospital runs the risk of not being able to care for all of its patients, which could worsen outcomes for patients and even contribute to unnecessary deaths. As Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins University, told me, “seeing hospital operations compromised because of an influx of Covid-19 admissions” is one of the things that would cause him serious concern.

      A rising mortality rate could also be a sign that the virus is evolving to become more dangerous. When I asked David Celentano, who leads the epidemiology department at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, what in the metrics would freak him out, he said: “A major increase in mortality, which might be associated with a new variant. That is my nightmare.”

      For now, hospitalizations (down 8 percent over the last two weeks), ICU occupancies (down 21 percent), and deaths (down 25 percent) are still declining from their omicron peak. That is part of the reason that, in spite of a recent uptick in case numbers, the US government and businesses are continuing to push toward resuming normal activities. They’re not trying to restrain case numbers anymore; these measures of severe illness have become paramount instead.

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

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