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Patients With Severe COVID-19 More Likely To Be Hospitalized In Future, UF Study Says

Becky Hunter, RN, tends to one of her COVID patients on ICU Unit 82 at UF Health in Gainesville.
Louis Brems
University of Florida
Becky Hunter, RN, tends to one of her COVID patients on ICU Unit 82 at UF Health in Gainesville.

Cases of COVID-19 are surging in Florida and so are hospitalizations as the Delta variant continues to spread.

Evidence shows that a vast majority of those who become severely ill from the virus have not been vaccinated.

Researchers at the University of Florida have found that those who end up in a hospital for COVID-19 are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized in the future for additional health problems related to a COVID-19 complication.

Health News Florida's William Marlow spoke with null lead researcher Arch G. Mainous III, about why COVID hospitalizations result in worse health outcomes for patients even after they recover.

What is the focus of the study?

The driving force behind this study was to look at the impact of COVID-19 downstream. One of the concerns that a lot of people have is that if you get COVID-19, what are the implications? Well, one implication is you could get really sick: you could die. Another implication that started coming out was that you could have some complications, some problems that came about from having COVID-19.

I think the main thing about the study is that we also looked at an outcome that other people hadn't looked at, and the findings are relatively troubling. And it shows that a pretty severe outcome can come from being affected with a severe episode of COVID-19.

What do you hope people learn from this study?

I hope that people learn a variety of things from this. The first is that we have a lot of data right now that's coming out that shows that the lag in vaccinations is leading to basically a rise in hospitalizations for COVID.

I think people are misinterpreting the impact of COVID-19 and believe that once the episode of COVID-19 is over, that's all there is. And I think that's really the key, which is that it's very difficult to minimize the downstream risk.

What are current trends in Florida regarding COVID-19 hospitalizations?

So Florida is a pretty good example of this. We're seeing here at University of Florida a rise in COVID hospitalizations and those numbers keep going up. They went way down, and now they're going back up. Some of this may be related to the Delta variant, but that actually comes back to the same general idea. People who are vaccinated, the data from the clinical trials shows that people who were vaccinated are at a very low risk of being hospitalized with COVID. So is the message to tell people to get vaccinated? I think absolutely.

How critical are vaccinations in reducing long-term health complications associated with COVID-19?

There's data that shows that nearly 100 percent, more than 99.5 percent of the people who are being hospitalized, were not vaccinated. The key to this study is that you can say, ‘I'm not going to get vaccinated, and I'll just take my chances.’ And that's a strategy that you can try. But if you get COVID, and you end up being an unfortunate person who ends up being hospitalized with a severe episode of COVID, it actually increases your likelihood of being hospitalized in the future for something else.

What this shows is that you're actually at increased risk if you do get sick and may have to be hospitalized in the next six months, you could be hospitalized with a stroke, you could be hospitalized with a heart attack, you could be hospitalized with a pulmonary embolism.

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William Marlow