The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States appears to be continuing a roughly two-week decline after steadily rising for roughly three months, according to an influential pandemic data tracker.

The COVID Tracking Project lists the current peak of U.S. coronavirus hospitalizations on Jan. 6, with nearly 132,500 patients recorded nationwide.

Numbers since then have been on an at-times broken but largely steady decline downward, falling 12% from that high to around 116,000 on Jan. 22, the lowest number since Dec. 21.

The data undergirding those numbers has at times been called into question. It is unclear, for instance, how many of those hospitalized patients were admitted explicitly because of the disease rather than just “with” it.

Health authorities have largely avoided making that distinction. In a rare instance of data transparency, the state of North Dakota had earlier in the pandemic offered the two distinct data metrics, though it recently stopped differentiating between the two, citing alleged “confusion” on the issue.

A survey of the state’s hospital numbers prior to that switch showed that about 40% of the total number of COVID patients in the state were hospitalized “with” the disease rather than strictly because of it. 

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