It’s something people have been saying since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic: how many of those deaths were people who died from the coronavirus, and how many of them were people who died with the coronavirus? If you had COVID-19 and fell off a ladder and died, would you be tallied along with the coronavirus deaths in your state?

There are many ways to tally the toll of the COVID pandemic: you can count those who have it, but that number depends on how many have been tested. You can count hospitalizations, and you can count deaths, which again, depends. The Atlantic, surprisingly, is reporting on a study that shows that 40 to 45 percent of the hospitalizations that they examined were for patients who were admitted to the hospital for entirely different reasons, such as “cancer treatment or a psychiatric episode.”

David Zweig reports:

… there are many COVID patients in the hospital with fairly mild symptoms, too, who have been admitted for further observation on account of their comorbidities, or because they reported feeling short of breath. Another portion of the patients in this tally are in the hospital for something unrelated to COVID, and discovered that they were infected only because they were tested upon admission. How many patients fall into each category has been a topic of much speculation. In August, researchers from Harvard Medical School, Tufts Medical Center, and the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System decided to find out.

“In other words, the study suggests that roughly half of all the hospitalized patients showing up on COVID-data dashboards in 2021 may have been admitted for another reason entirely, or had only a mild presentation of disease,” he reports.

“… the study also demonstrates that hospitalization rates for COVID, as cited by journalists and policy makers, can be misleading, if not considered carefully.” None of this means people shouldn’t get vaccinated, but they should question the numbers as we hear more and more about how hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID patients.