I wrote about the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” (I’m using the term non-vaccinated) and how official numbers do not support that story-line – at least not for the UK – about a week ago. In the post, I cited from the COVID-19 vaccine surveillance report 48.
Switzerland is not running out of ICU beds. It’s a fake news scare peddled by mainstream media and politicians. The proof is in the data from the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) which records the number of ICU beds available and occupied. The data clearly shows that hospitals are adjusting the number of ICU beds on an as needed basis to keep occupancy as high as possible while still having a number of beds available for emergencies.
Here’s the data from Feb. 15 2021 to Dec. 10 2021:
Not long ago, as recent as Nov. 23, several politicians and media have declared there to be a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’ (should actually be not-vaccinated). While this misguided rhetoric has now been dialed back, the data now shows, that the claim was not quite substantiated when it was made.
A few weeks ago a letter titled “The epidemiological relevance of the COVID-19-vaccinated population is increasing” was published in The Lancet Regional Health – Europe containing the following statement:
I am not going to belabor this point any longer, and conclude the topic here with presenting more evidence that the “Swiss hospital are running out of ICU beds” story in the news media is completely false (fake news!). Hospital are running at a high occupancy, yes, but the ICU-bed capacity is adapted as needed and changes from day to day. This can can be seen directly from the data provided by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) by everyone who cares to actually look at the daily numbers and compare them for several days. Here are the numbers from December 1 and December 2, 2021:
It’s easy to see that for Switzerland, numbers are actually slightly down from Dec. 1 to Dec. 2:
Total ICU beds have gone up by +1 (but that’s still 4 less than on Nov. 30);
The total occupancy has gone down by -7 beds;
COVID-19 patients has gone up by +9, while Non-COVID-19 patients has gone down by -14 beds;
Free ICU has gone up by +8 beds
Occupancy is at 81.2% on December 2, which is -0.9% compared to December 1. On November 30, it was 81.1%, but there were 863 ICU beds that day. So, it’s again obvious, that giving the number “ICU beds are x% occupied” is highly misleading, as the total number, the “100%” changes from day to day.
It’s also easy to see that the situation in Zurich has improved from Dec. 1 to Dec. 2:
Total number of beds has stayed the same, at 183 beds;
Total occupancy has gone down by -9 beds;
COVID-19 patients occupancy has gone down by -1 beds;
Non-COVID-19 patients occupancy has gone down by -8 beds;
Free ICU beds has gone up +9 beds
So in conclusion, we can see from the numbers, that hospital ICU-beds, are managed on an “as-needed” basis. They are activated and deactivated as the situation requires, and hospitals are not interested in running a high-number of unoccupied ICU-beds, just to keep the statistics nice. Of course, there is a maximum number to which ICU-beds can be increased, but has that been reached yet? We don’t know and are not told in any statistics. The real limiting factor is staff-availability, not number of physical beds, by the way. But curiously, for that, we don’t see any statistics, and we also are not told, what is done to alleviate the pressure on the medical staff.
Let’s look at the official numbers from the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health again. Here, I have compared the numbers from November 28 with those of November 30:
For Switzerland we make some observations:
First, note the Total number of ICU beds for Switzerland. Nov. 28: 854, Nov. 30: 863. The total number of ICU-beds is not constant over time, it is GROWING (+9). So the “beds are x% occupied” news are grossly misleading;
Second, note the number of non-COVID-19 patients in ICU beds has grown quicker (+25) than the number of COVID-19 patients (+16). This is evidence, that COVID-19 is not the only driver for increased demand for ICU beds;
Let’s look at the numbers for Canton of Zurich:
First, note the Total number of ICU beds for Zurich. Nov. 28: 179, Nov. 30: 183. Number of beds were increased in two days (+4)
Second, note the number of non-COVID-19 patients has grown quicker (+5) than the number of COVID-19 patients (+4). This is evidence, that COVID-19 is not the only driver for increased demand for ICU beds;
Third, the number of available ICU beds has dropped by -5 and is now at 12 (6.6% of Total for that day)
So, the key observations are:
The total “capacity” of ICU-beds differs from day to day, as, presumably, hospitals create new capacity as needed. Meaning: News like the above, that “hospitals are to x% occupied” are nonsense in this form, because they do not take into account that the capacity can be and is increased as needed (up to a certain maximum, of course, but we and they don’t know where that is);
Contrary to what these press statements would make you believe, ICU beds are not only filling up because of COVID-19 patients, In fact, non-COVID-19 patients fill up ICU-beds in Switzerland quicker than COVID-19 patients do. So, the obvious question: What’s up with that? But nobody in this shitty news outlets actually asks these “obvious” questions – I wonder why…
With the news of a new SARS-Cov-2 variant named ‘Omicron’, or rather B.1.1.529 with it’s technical designation on the horizon, it bears repeating, that your usual PCR test is not capable of determining which variant of the virus was detected in a positive test. That’s what “Whole Genome Sequencing” is for, or more specifically, next-generation sequencing (NGS) as noted by the CDC. So what is NGS:
Next-generation sequencing (NGS) is a massively parallel sequencing technology that offers ultra-high throughput, scalability, and speed. The technology is used to determine the order of nucleotides in entire genomes or targeted regions of DNA or RNA. NGS has revolutionized the biological sciences, allowing labs to perform a wide variety of applications and study biological systems at a level never before possible.
The method has been used to detect other variants of SARS-Cov-2. Here’s a good opportunity to clear up the terms “variant” and “strain”. In the process of replicating the viral RNA errors occur, i.e. during copying, one or more constituents of the RNA genetic code are replaced with other constituents. This is called a mutation. Viruses with mutations are called “variants” and differ slightly from the original virus. Some mutations have no effect at all, others change the behaviour of the virus, in which case the mutation is called “strain”, a “strain” is also a “variant”, but not vice versa – see here for a nice introduction to this topic. Previous strains were the UK variant (B.1.17), the (previous South African variant (B.1.351). The current newly identified South African variant (B.1.1.529) is most likely also a strain, since it has increased transmission rates. Now, it would be interesting to know, when NGS are performed, how many are performed and how long they take. I haven’t found numbers so far, so I can only guess. Given my understanding of the technology, I have to assume that not every sample is tested (a test takes time and cost money). Or in the words on an article on the Roche website, published June 1, 2021:
While there have been significant technological and cost-effective advances in analyzing the genome with NGS, the method has not yet been widely used in routine clinical practice for diagnosis. This suggests that there remain many challenges and uncertainties that clinical laboratories, regulatory agencies, payers and other stakeholders need to address before NGS becomes standard for diagnosing diseases or biomarker testing.
This would lead me to believe that it is usually not determined scientifically, which variant of SARS-Cov-2 someone has tested positive for. So, if media and politicians claim that such-and-such variant was rapidly spreading, that is largely an assumption, in my view. Of course, there can always be information I’ve missed…
This is posted for future reference. The data covers the period from 2001 to 2019 (inclusive) – thus it is pre-pandemic data. As we can see from the data, the number of beds in this period have been reduced by 12%, despite the fact that the population grew by 19%, a rise in hospitalizations by 25% during the same period.
Here is another view on the number of ICU beds in the Canton of Zurich for 2018 – which is also pre-pandemic. The article raises he same points as the above (reduction of number of beds, despite growing population):
Some ten days later, we look again at the number to see whether the numbers continued to rise, supposedly due to the Delta-Variant of SarsCoV2. The data is again from the Texas Department of Health Services and current as of September 10, 2021.
As we can see, the numbers have stopped going up and have begun to come down. This is while there are still no COVID19 measures are in place – they were all lifted by Texas Governor Abbott and have not been put back in force.
We’re going to keep an eye on this situation to see how it develops during the autumn and winter.