How Stay-at-Home Orders Influenced COVID-19 Hospitalization

Pinar Karaca-Mandic, PhD, explains new research showing how exponentional rates of hospitalizations were avoided in 4 shut-down states.

A new study from a team of investigators in Minnesota showed that 4 states with available daily data of coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) hospitalizations benefitted significantly in deviating from the worst possible spike in new hospitalizations after the execution of stay-at-home orders in March.

The assessment, which broke from standard coronavirus research that often relies on confirmed cases and deaths, highlighted the effect of state-enacted social distancing and isolation on what they believe to be the most valuable metric in reduced COVID-19 effect: sustained hospital infrastructure.

In the 4 observed states—Colorado, Minnesota, Ohio, and Virginia—cumulative hospitalizations due to COVID-19 deviated from investigators’ projected best-fit exponential growth rates following the orders becoming effective.

Investigators queried whether unobserved factors including social distancing guidance, school closures, and general awareness campaigns could have influenced the deviation in the observed states.

“In addition, economic insecurity and loss of health insurance during the pandemic may have also decreased hospital utilization,” they wrote.

In an interview with Contagion, study author Pinar Karaca-Mandic, PhD, Academic Director of the Medical Industry Leadership Institute at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, discussed the unique makeup of this assessment, and what the findings mean for understanding public health response and social distancing during a pandemic.

“It was really clear indication that something is happening in these states that is associated with a reduction of hospitalizations—at about 50% lower on average,” she explained.