COVID-19 hospitalizations tumble among US senior citizens

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FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2021, file photo, registered nurse Andraya Zelle treats a patient in the COVID intensive care unit at UW Medical Center-Montlake in Seattle. COVID-19 hospitalizations are plunging among older Americans. The falling numbers show the countrys vaccination strategy is working, pushing deaths lower and easing pressure on the frayed hospital system. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

WASHINGTON – COVID-19 hospitalizations among older Americans have plunged more than 70% since the start of the year, and deaths among them appear to have tumbled as well, dramatic evidence the vaccination campaign is working.

Now the trick is to get more of the nation's younger people to roll up their sleeves.

The drop-off in severe cases among Americans 65 and older is especially encouraging because senior citizens have accounted for about 8 out of 10 deaths from the virus since it hit the U.S., where the toll stands at about 570,000

COVID-19 deaths among people of all ages in the U.S. have plummeted to about 700 per day on average, compared with a peak of over 3,400 in mid-January.

“What you’re seeing there is exactly what we hoped and wanted to see: As really high rates of vaccinations happen, hospitalizations and death rates come down," said Jodie Guest, a public health researcher at Emory University.

The best available data suggests COVID-19 deaths among Americans 65 and older have declined more than 50% since their peak in January. The picture is not entirely clear because the most recent data on deaths by age from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is incomplete and subject to revision.

Still, the figures suggest that the fall in deaths among senior citizens is driving the overall decline in lives lost to COVID-19, vindicating the U.S. strategy of putting elderly people at or near the front of the line for shots when the vaccine became available over the winter.

The U.S. trends mirror what is happening in other countries with high vaccination rates, such as Israel and Britain, and stand in stark contrast to the worsening disaster in places like India and Brazil, which lag far behind in dispensing shots.