Drop in COVID-19 ICU patients in Monroe County signals decline in serious cases

May 7, 2020

The number of people being treated for COVID-19 in an intensive care unit in Monroe County is at its lowest point since March, according to the latest figures from the county public health department.

ICUs treat the most severe cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, often by placing patients on ventilators.

The novel coronavirus, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerges from the surface of cells cultured in a lab.
Credit National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Rocky Mountain Laboratories

But even as the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 treatment in the county has hovered around 100 for the last several weeks, the number of people in local ICUs has slowly but steadily declined.

According to the county’s latest data, 19 patients with COVID-19 were in an ICU on Tuesday and Wednesday -- the lowest number since March 26.

Critical care physicians elsewhere in the country have said that ventilators might be overused for COVID-19 treatment. Many patients who are placed on ventilators don’t survive, but spokespeople at the University of Rochester and Rochester Regional Health said local doctors have not changed their protocol.


Data from the Monroe County public health department shows the number of people in ICUs for COVID-19 treatment falling over the last several weeks.
Credit Brett Dahlberg / WXXI News

Instead, they said, the decrease in COVID-19 patients in Monroe County ICUs is likely due to normal fluctuations in patient censuses -- as people in the ICU either die or recover, they are stricken from the census. Sometimes, they’re not replaced by an equal or greater number of new ICU patients.

The number of people in the hospital stays largely the same because patients who have been intubated often have long recovery times. They stay in the hospital for monitoring and continued treatment.

There is a chance, the hospital systems said, that decreasing ICU counts are reflecting a slowing in the spread of the novel coronavirus locally. They cautioned, however, that the data for that conclusion remain insufficient, and the numbers could just as easily climb again in the coming weeks, especially if people loosen up on distancing.