UPMC doctor argues COVID-19 not as deadly as feared, says its hospitals will shift back to normal

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Summary: 

A UPMC doctor on Thursday made a case the death rate for people infected with the new coronavirus may be as low as 0.25% — far lower than the mortality rates of 2-4% or even higher cited in the early days of the pandemic.

Dr. Donald Yealy based it partly on studies of levels of coronavirus antibodies detected in people in New York and California, and partly on COVID-19 deaths in the Pittsburgh region. The studies found that 5-20% of people had been exposed to the coronavirus, with many noticing only mild illness or none at all, he said.

Another speaker, Dr. Rachel Sackrowitz, the chief medical officer for UPMC’s intensive care units, said 234 COVID-19 patients have recovered and been discharged from UPMC hospitals. “This is very good news. It means people are getting better and we’re all on the right track together.”

Yealy said only 2% percent of the UPMC system’s 5,500 beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients and the number of new COVID-19 patients is declining.

He cited that figure in explaining UPMC’s plans to quickly increase its volume of the non-emergency surgeries that were largely banned to conserve beds and supplies for COVID-19 patients. The ban is now being eased as the volume of COVID-19 patients falls short of worst-case predictions.

Date: 
Thursday, April 30, 2020