ZIP codes matter when it comes to severe COVID-19

Credit: CC0 Public Domain.

COVID-19 has sent nearly 900,000 Americans to the hospital in the past two years.

In a new study from Michigan Medicine, researchers that the ZIP codes they came from had a lot to do with how sick they were when they got to the hospital, and how much care they needed once they were there.

But those differences disappeared by the time their stays were done — whether they left the hospital alive or dead.

The new findings showed the importance of social and economic inequality in the way the pandemic is playing out — including how early in their illness people seek or get access to care.

Even after the researchers took into account the underlying health of each person they studied, the social vulnerability index, or SVI, of their home ZIP code still made a difference.

In the study, the team used data from more than 2,300 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in 38 hospitals across Michigan from March to December of 2020.

They found people who lived in the most underprivileged ZIP codes were more likely to have severe symptoms such as low blood oxygen levels when admitted.

They also need support for failing lungs and other organs through technologies such as ventilators and dialysis once they were in a hospital bed.

But they were no more likely to die than those from more-privileged areas, and no less likely to go back to their own homes instead of a nursing home.

The team says making information available in multiple languages, and ensuring that outpatient treatment and transportation to appointments are available during the times people need it no matter what their schedule, are two specific things that could make a difference.

High, or worse, SVI has also been shown to correlate with low COVID-19 vaccination rates, so once data from 2021 are available through Mi-COVID19, the team will look at how care and outcomes for people with severe COVID-19 changed once vaccines were available.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about which COVID vaccines elicits the strongest immune responses, and COVID-19 vaccine that could provide ‘border protection’ to the body.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about inexpensive heart drug that can help treat severe COVID-19, and results showing that green tea may protect your body as a vaccine.

The study is published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and was conducted by Renuka Tipirneni et al.

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