Washington – A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracking study of coronavirus released Wednesday shows Connecticut had the highest COVID-19 hospitalization rate among 14 states  monitored, surpassing New York and California.

The report said in the month of March, Connecticut had about 15 COVID-19-related hospitalizations for 100,000 residents, while New York state had fewer than eight and Ohio had about one.

But the CDC is only tracking cases reported in certain counties in each state. In Connecticut, those are Middlesex  and New Haven counties

Hospitalization rates in Fairfield County, the hottest “hot spot” in Connecticut, were not included  in the study, nor was data from New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic in the nation right now.

Instead, the CDC focused on 99 counties that formed the basis for the Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network, launched in 2003 to monitor the severity of influenza seasons and provided information to help combat the flu.

The new surveillance network is called the COVID-19–Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network, or COVID-NET.

“This is a labor intensive project that is done in collaboration with our colleagues at the Yale School of Public Health emerging infections disease program,” said state epidemiologist Matthew Cartter. “That’s why we do this in New Haven and Middlesex counties.  We are part of the greater NYC COVID-19 outbreak and the rates here are higher than in the other COVID-Net sites.”

Using COVID-NET data, the CDC said the average hospitalization rate was 4.6 per 100,000 residents. The agency’s report also said COVID-19–associated hospitalizations increased with age, with the highest rates among adults aged 65 or older.

And most of those hospitalized patients identified in the CDC’s study — 90 percent — had one or more underlying conditions, the most common being obesity, hypertension, chronic lung disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Obesity increases risk of hospitalization

Among patients aged 18–49 years, obesity was the most prevalent underlying condition, followed by chronic lung disease (primarily asthma) and diabetes.

Among patients aged 50–64 years, obesity was most prevalent, followed by hypertension and diabetes; and among those aged 65 and older hypertension was most prevalent, followed by cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The CDC also said the average period of time from the onset of symptoms – most frequently cough, fever or chills and shortness of breath – to hospitalization was seven days.

In Connecticut, as of Tuesday, there were 7,781 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 277 deaths. That means the COVID-19 death rate is about 3.5 percent in the state. In New York it is 3.9 percent and in New Jersey it is 2.8 percent.

But those numbers may be misleading because they are based on the numbers of people tested for coronavirus in a state and there’s large discrepancy in the amount of testing done in individual states.

Many people have been infected and were never tested, especially if they are asymptomatic, meaning they are infected but don’t show signs of illness.  As many as 25 percent of people infected with the new coronavirus may not show symptoms, the CDC has said.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health has warned there is much more disease activity going on in the state that has not been recorded.

Cartter has said that for every laboratory confirmed COVID-19 case in Connecticut, there are likely 100 other cases. Cartter said he based that premise on more than 30 years of infectious disease investigations in the state.

Men vs women

Another statistic being reported by the state health department may be very accurate.

Connecticut is following a trend noted overseas, likely to hold across the nation, too, in which women are more likely to be infected by COVID-19 but men are more likely to die from it.

As of Tuesday, the rate of confirmed  coronavirus cases among females in Connecticut was 217 per 100,000 and for males 209 per 100,000. But, as of Tuesday, 167 males and 109 females died of COVID-19.

Researchers believe women’s bodies are better at fighting off infection, thanks to the hormones in their systems and the genes on their two X chromosomes. But that is just a theory.

Robert McLean, a rheumatologist who practices in New Haven and the head of the American College of Physicians, said men and women may have different receptors for the coronavirus.

“Maybe the way it gets into men and women is different,” he said.

Meanwhile,  a Washington Post analysis of early data from jurisdictions across the country shows there’s a stark racial disparity when it comes to the disease, with greater proportions of African Americans becoming ill and dying of COVID-19.

McLean also wonders why health care workers are getting more serious cases of COVID-19 than other people.

“It may be the viral load, the intensity of the exposure,” he said. “There are multiple factors that we don’t know.”

Help us report.

We can’t shake your hand, but want to hear from those of you working or living on the front lines of the coronavirus emergency.
Are you a Connecticut public health worker, medical provider, elected official, patient or other COVID-19 expert? We’re looking for information and sources. Help make sure our journalism is focused on the right issues.
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Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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