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Florida hospital system says 50% of its COVID patients are mainly there for other reasons

A person walks past the emergency room of a hospital in New York, on December 13, 2021.

Wang Ying/Xinhua via Getty Image

  • Florida’s Jackson Health System said half its COVID patients were admitted for “non-COVID reasons.”
  • These types of patients test positive for the coronavirus after being admitted.
  • Catching COVID-19 can make preexisting conditions worse in the hospital, experts have warned. 

About half of the patients listed as being in the hospital with COVID-19 were admitted for “non-COVID reasons,” a health authority in Florida said.

“Jackson Health System hospitals currently have 439 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19,” the Jackson Health System said in a tweet on Monday.

“Of those, 220 patients — or 50% — are admitted to the hospital primarily for non-COVID reasons.”

The post was a relatively rare snapshot of the prevalence of so-called incidental COVID in the US.

Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical advisor, recently warned that COVID-19 hospitalization data should be taken with a grain of salt, Insider previously reported.

He said in a Wednesday interview that focused on admissions in children, that some would be admitted for “a broken leg, or appendicitis, or something like that,” and only later turn out to have COVID-19.

COVID-19 cases like that can make up a substantial proportion of hospital admissions.

These made up about a third of the 8,321 COVID-positive cases in England on December 28, according to data from the UK National Health Service.

In separate press conferences on Monday, New York Gov. Katy Hochul and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned that incidental cases could be making up a good proportion of hospitalized cases their states.

“Beginning tomorrow, we’re going to be asking all hospitals to break out for us how many people are being hospitalized because of COVID symptoms [and] how many people … happen to be testing positive,” Hochul said.

Experts have warned against underestimating COVID-19 hospitalization data because of these incidental cases. 

Mark Kline, Senior Vice President of the Children’s hospital in New Orleans, said in a tweet that last summer “78% of 915 kids” at six hospitals were hospitalized “not just with, but because of COVID.” He didn’t name the hospitals in question.

Having COVID-19 can also worsen whatever problem the person was admitted for, said David Strain, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter medical school, in an interview with The Guardian.

“We [have] seen many other people who have been otherwise stable [with] chronic diseases such as heart failure, ulcerative colitis etc that caught COVID and had a rapid deterioration,” he said.

“Although they are regarded as ‘incidental Covid’, this sudden deterioration in otherwise stable disease can be attributed to the virus,” he said.

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