COLUMBUS, Ohio — In the new year ahead, there's a signal we can look for in the COVID-19 data to show when we are heading in the right direction.
It's called data decoupling.
Over 2020 and 2021, we've seen the pattern of waves. When cases increase, we see the number of hospitalizations go up as well. Unfortunately, when there's an increase in hospitalizations, the number of deaths has gone up.
Eventually the waves peak, crest, and the numbers decrease again.
With omicron, we are going to see more cases. However, as more people get vaccines and boosters, will that be enough to ease the hospitalizations and deaths?
Infectious disease experts such as Dr. Joe Gastaldo with OhioHealth are optimistic.
Take the United Kingdom for example. Over the summer, cases started to rise and another wave was upon them. But this time at that point, with over 60% of the population vaccinated, the case wave was not followed by a similar increase in hospitalizations.
While cases went up, hospitalizations didn't. Essentially, the two metrics decoupled from one another.
“If you look at data in Ohio, and even the national data, if you compare it to last winter, there is not the same steep as rise as hospitalizations compared to positivity numbers in the community,” explained Dr. Gastaldo. “So if you look at the data, there appears to be a little bit of what we call ‘decoupling.’ And I think moving forward and 2022, I'm very optimistic of where that future decoupling would likely go.”
Dr. Gastaldo said decoupling is powered by tools like vaccines combined with treatments like monoclonal antibodies and the antiviral pills from Merck and Pfizer.