Education & Information

# The reassuring math explaining COVID hospitalization percentages for vaccinated people

As if dealing with an ever-changing understanding of the novel coronavirus over the past year and a half hasn't been enough, we've also had to try to understand the math behind the data analysis, which for some of us (hi, English major here) is a nightmare.

It's vitally important that we understand these numbers, though, because misinformation peddlers are using them to push misconceptions about vaccines. And even though the math isn't actually that complicated, those of us who aren't particularly mathematically inclined may read headlines like "50% of COVID patients in XX hospital are fully vaccinated" and find ourselves alarmed. Wasn't the vaccine supposed to prevent hospitalizations? If half of the people in the hospital are vaccinated, doesn't that mean the vaccine makes no difference?

Well, no. That's not at all what it means, and here's why. It's all about the denominators.

On a super basic level: 2 = 2, but 2 out of 20 is not the same as 2 out of 80. If 4 people are hospitalized, 2 vaccinated and 2 not vaccinated, in an area with an 80% vaccination rate, it's not a meaningful measurement to say that half of the hospitalizations are in vaccinated people. Your chances of hospitalization with the vaccination are significantly lower because of the denominator.

Biostatistician Lucy D'Agostino McGowan simplified why the percent vaccinated in hospitalizations numbers aren't as scary as they sound with some helpful visuals in a Twitter thread.

The director of the Maine CDC, Nirav D. Shah, gave an even more thorough explanation for those who actually want to wade a little deeper into the statistical waters.

He wrote:

"It's important to consider the full picture when interpreting data on things like the % of people fully vaccinated who are hospitalized with #COVID19, or the fact that 74% of the cases in the P-town outbreak were fully vaccinated.

I have seen folks express concern upon learning, for example, that 45% of people hospitalized w/COVID19 are vaccinated.

"But I thought the vaccine keeps you out of the hospital? Is this evidence that vaccines aren't working?" No, it is not. I'll walk through why here.

First, some basic assumptions. There are two Worlds, each with 1M people. And we'll consider the same infectious disease affecting each World, with the parameters below.

There is also a vaccine, with the effectiveness parameters noted below. These could all be changed.In World 1, 50% of the population has been vaccinated against the disease. Out of the 1M people, there are 30,000 infections and 2525 hospitalizations.

Among vaccinated folks, 25 end up in the hospital. The other 2500 hospitalized are UNvaccinated.World 2 is different: 90% of the population is vaccinated.

Here, there are only 14,000 cases. And only 545 people are hospitalized in total.

BUT, 45 of the hospitalized are vaccinated! Compare that with only 25 vaccinated folks in the hospital in World 1.What is going on?

How could it be that, in a World with 90% of the population vaccinated, 20 *more* vaccinated people are hospitalized with the disease (45 vs. 25?)? Is the vaccine not working in World 2?

It's important to compare World 1 and World 2 side by side.

First, note that the case rate in World 2 (90% vaccinated) is far lower than in World 1 (50%). The vaccine is working.

Second, the hospitalization RATE is also far lower in World 2: 545/million vs. 2525/mil.But because there are simply more vaccinated people in World 2, something that affects them at the same rate as others (hospitalization) will generate more cases, numerically.

Indeed, the % of all hospitalized who are fully vaccinated is HIGHER in World 2 than in World 1.In World 2 (90%), 8.25% of all those in the hospital are vaccinated. But in World 1 (50%), it's only 1%!

This is NOT evidence that the vaccines are ineffective. It is a function of the fact that there are simply more vaccinated folks in World 2 relative to unvaccinated.

The question to ask yourself is this: which world would you rather be in?

For that, you would look to the hospitalization rate: 545 vs. 2525/million. World 2, with its higher vaccination rate, is preferable, given that it experiences 1980 fewer hospitalizations. In World 1, fewer people are vaccinated, so their rate of hospitalization is just lower.

Where else does this (common) phenomenon occur?

For a stark example, consider this: what % of skydiving accidents occur in people who were wearing a parachute? Probably 100%.

Are parachutes not effective? They are. But the baseline rate of parachute wearing among those who sky dive is 100%.

Another example: what percentage of fatal car accidents occur in people who were wearing a seat belt? It's about 52%.

Does that mean the effectiveness of seat belts is a coin flip? No, the baseline rate matters. Seat belt usage is around 85%. As with so many things, where you end up depends on the baseline rate of where you started.

Lots of vaccinated folks are being hospitalized with COVID because there are a growing number of vaccinated folks. But the RATE of total hospitalizations is going down. That's good. Similarly, in P-town, 74% (346) of the cases were among vaccinated folks.

But there, what percentage of folks were vaccinated vs. unvaccinated? If the baseline rate of vaccinated was sky high, then this finding is entirely predictable. This is a common theme in epidemiology and statistics. Once you know to look for it, it jumps out all over the place. But without the context around background rates, denominators, etc., it's easy to scare yourself and make incorrect decisions.

Another example: imagine World 3, also with 1M people. 999,999 are vaccinated.

Two cases of COVID occur. One in the unvaccinated person. The other in a vaccinated person.

So 50% of new COVID cases are in the vaccinated. Really? Yes, but deceiving. Denominators matter."

Denominators matter. Even those of us who aren't mathematicians or statisticians can understand that, but we do need media reports to be clear about it; otherwise, we end up with people believing that the vaccines don't do much.

We also need to remember that data is always being gathered and that our understanding of this virus, the vaccines, and how best to balance safety measures and other needs will continue to evolve. The constant shifts are hard, but such is the nature of a novel viral pandemic, and it looks like we're still going to be in it for a while.

Pets

## Chewy Claus is fulfilling thousands of pet wishes this season. Have you written your letter yet?

### Every letter submitted donates a pound of food to pets in need.

via Chewy

Adorable Dexter and his new chew toy. Thanks Chewy Claus.

True

Every holiday season, millions of kids send letters asking for everything from a new bike to a pony. Some even make altruistic requests such as peace on Earth or helping struggling families around the holidays.

But wouldn’t the holiday season be even more magical if our pets had their wishes granted, too? That’s why Chewy Claus is stepping up to spread holiday cheer to America’s pets.

Does your dog dream of a month’s supply of treats or chew toys? Would your cat love a new tree complete with a stylish condo? How about giving your betta fish some fresh decor that’ll really tie its tank together?

Or do your pets need something more than mere creature comforts such as life-saving surgery?

via Chewy

“At Chewy, we know pets are a part of the family and we wanted to give them a way to truly participate in the holiday season this year,” said Orlena Yeung, VP of Brand Marketing at Chewy. “Through Chewy Claus, we are hoping to spread joy while recognizing the most important gift that keeps on giving—the love and companionship of our pets.”

To submit your letter to Chewy Claus, just go to be.chewy.com/chewy-claus.

Not only could your pet’s letter make their holidays even merrier, it will give back, too. For every letter submitted to Chewy Claus, Chewy will donate one pound of food to Greater Good Charities (up to 15,000 pounds). Further, for every product purchased during the Season of Giving, Chewy will match up to \$1 million per week in a pet food and supply donation to Greater Good Charities, for a potential total of \$10 million.

I’ve got a new dog this year, a one-year-old boxer mix named Archie and I know what he wants this holiday season.

via Chewy

The first letter sent to Chewy Claus came from True & Faithful Pet Rescue in Venice, FL. The rescue, which focuses on saving senior dogs, was one of the many victims of Hurricane Ian. Their wish was simple; they asked for food for themselves and those in their community.

Chewy Claus delivered by providing a 20-thousand-pound truckload of food to True & Faithful and other shelter and rescue partners in the community. Chewy also assembled a team of volunteers to hold a clean-up day and donated the necessary funds to rebuild their beloved dog beach.

via Chewy

“We are so grateful for Chewy’s support in rehabilitating our space and not only donating thousands of pounds of food to our community, but also providing the help and funds necessary to rebuild our beach,” Lisa Letson, Founder of True & Faithful Pet Rescue told Upworthy. “The beach is our senior dogs’ happy place, where they can live their best lives for the time they have left. It really is a dream come true for us.”

Chewy is the best place to shop for pets this holiday season because it's the gift that keeps on giving. It’s simple: when you shop, they donate. Chewy will also match customer purchases in the form of a product donation up to \$1M per week for a potential total of \$10M throughout the season of giving. That means pets living in shelters and rescues will receive toys, treats, food and other essential items this holiday season. Plus, if you write a letter to Chewy Claus, your pet may get their holiday wish and pets in need will get theirs, too—a win win win. Isn’t that what the season is all about?

Celebrity

## U.S. Soccer star expertly handles an Iranian reporter’s loaded questions about race.

### Tyler Adams’s response proves exactly why he’s the captain of the US soccer team.

Tyler Adams expertly handles Iranian reporter's question

Reporters are supposed to ask the right questions to get to the truth but sometimes it seems sports reporters ask questions to throw you off your game. There's no doubt that this Iranian reporter who was questioning Tyler Adams, the US soccer team captain at the press conference during the World Cup had an agenda that didn't involve getting to the truth.

It's not clear if the questions were designed to throw the young player off of his game or if the goal was embarrassment. It really is hard to tell, but Adams handled the unexpectedly harsh encounter with intelligence and poise when some may have found it justified for him to get angry.

The World Cup is being played in Qatar and Iran's soccer team is in attendance. There have been reports that the Iranian players were threatened with their family members facing "violence and torture" after the team refused to sing the Iranian national anthem. But there was tension with the Iranian government and the American players after the US soccer team displayed the Iranian flag without the Iranian Republic emblem.

Maybe the flag mishap spurred the reporters loaded questions. When the Iranian reporter first addresses Adams, he immediately chastises him for not knowing the correct pronunciation of Iran before moving on to an interesting question choice.

The reporter asked Adams, "are you ok to be representing a country that has so much discrimination against Black people in its own boarders and you saw the Black Lives Matter Movement over the past few years. Are you OK the US meanwhile there's so much discrimination happening against Black people in America"

Adams, did not get defensive about the correction but responded by apologizing about mispronouncing the name of the country. The player's response to the rest of the question proves the young captain's emotional maturity and why he's captain of the US soccer team.

Watch his entire response below:

Community

## Teen raises \$186,000 to help 81-year-old Walmart worker pay off her mortgage and retire

### 'Life shouldn't be this hard.'

Photo by Jeremy Wong on Unsplash

Teen raises \$186,000 to help Walmart worker retire.

In America, many people have to work well past the age of retirement to make ends meet. While some of these people choose to work past retirement age because it keeps them active, some older people, like Nola Carpenter, 81, work out of necessity.

Carpenter has been working at Walmart for 20 years, way beyond most people's retirement age just so that she can afford to continue to pay her mortgage. When 19-year-old Devan Bonagura saw the woman looking tired in the break room of the store, he posted a video to his TikTok of Carpenter with a text overlay that said, "Life shouldn't b this hard..." complete with a sad face emoji.

In the video, Carpenter is sitting at a small table looking down and appearing to be exhausted. The caption of the video reads ":/ I feel bad." Turns out, a lot of other people did too, and encouraged the teen to start a GoFundMe, which has since completed.

The retirement age in the United States in order to collect Social Security benefits is 66, or 67 if you were born in or after 1960. But early retirement starts at 62 for reduced benefits. How many years you worked is a deciding factor in how much financial benefit you will receive from Social Security, with the average amount expected to be \$1,827 a month in January 2023.

@dbon973_

WE LOVE YOU NOLA I HOPE THIS HELPS❤️🙏 #blowthisup #fyp #gofundme #nola #walmart #viralvideo

While that amount of money is nothing to scoff at, it's also not enough to live off of alone, especially for those who fall below the average amount. You also have to factor in Medicare premiums and tax withholdings that must come out of that figure. So it's no wonder that people over the age of 67 have to continue to work if they don't have adequate savings put away to retire on. The cost of living increases impact all age groups, including the elderly.

Thankfully for this elderly Walmart worker, the GoFundMe quickly exploded and raised \$110,000 in just 24 hours. But when Bonagura went to give the money to Carpenter, she was grateful for the help but explained she would still need to work until the other \$60,000 of her mortgage was paid off. This prompted users to give more to secure Carpenter's retirement.

In the end, the GoFundMe raised \$186,000, which was enough to pay off the mortgage on the woman's house. Retirement is now on the horizon for the grandmother, who says she's set to retire on the first of the year. She wants to make sure she helps her co-workers get through the holiday season before hanging up her vest for good.

@dbon973_

Update video with Nola ❤️ #nola #dbon #gofundme #viral #blowthisup #love #kindness #givingback

As for Bonagura, he's currently suspended with pay due to him filming at the store and posting it to TikTok. While he wasn't an employee of Walmart, he worked for a cellphone carrier that operated sales inside the store. Nevertheless, Bonagura feels he did the right thing and is focused solely on making sure Carpenter gets to retire.

It's amazing what people can accomplish when they work together. Happy retirement, Nola! Here's to hoping you enjoy every minute of it.

Science

## A wild goose was taken to an animal hospital. His mate knocked on the door to find him.

As if a Canada goose named Arnold isn't endearing enough, his partner who came looking for him when he was injured is warming hearts and having us root for this sweet feathered couple.

Cape Wildlife Center in Barnstable, Massachusetts shared the story on its Facebook page, in what they called "a first" for their animal hospital.

"We often have people ask if they can visit the patients they dropped off, but today we had our first animal visitor!" they wrote. "For the safety of our patients we do not accommodate visitation requests, but in this case we had to make an exception!"

Arnold is a Canada goose that lives on a pond near the facility and is part of a mated pair of wild geese that have been together for several years. The center said the geese usually keep to themselves, but one of their staff noticed that Arnold was walking with a "significant limp" and kept falling over. They were able to capture him and bring him into the hospital for examination.

A goose visits its mate at the Cape Wildlife Center

"Upon exam our veterinary team found that he had two open-fractures on his foot," they wrote. "This means that the tissue and skin has been pulled away leaving the bone exposed. Our best guess is that a Snapping turtle or other predator attacked him while swimming."

To save his foot and help him survive, the staff knew they had to amputate one of the digits and suture the other wound closed. They gave him antibiotics and pain meds and prepped him for surgery the following morning.

Then his mate came knocking.

"Today, as we prepared to sedate Arnold and get him ready for surgery, we heard a faint tapping at the clinic door," the center wrote. "We turned to see that his mate had waddled up onto the porch and was attempting to break into our clinic! She had somehow located him and was agitated that she could not get inside. She remained there throughout the entire procedure, watching us work, never moving from the doorway."

Aww.

Surgery went well, and once Arnold woke up the staff decided to let him recover by the doorway so he and his mate could see each other.

"We opened the door and gave Arnold his flow-by oxygen in the doorway. His mate immediately calmed down and began to groom him through the door. They both seemed much more at ease in each other's presence."

AWWWW.

"Arnold will likely need several weeks of treatment in our hospital before he is ready to rejoin his mate in the wild," they added. "He will need to be kept inside for the majority of this time in order to keep his wound sterile and prevent infection. We will do our best to get him back out quickly and will perform bandage changes and treatments in view of the doorway when possible so that his mate can check up on him. ❤️"

While attempting not to anthropomorphize too much, it's so sweet to see animal partners show such genuine care for one another. Canada geese mate for life, and they are known to mourn in seclusion when they lose a mate. Seeing Arnold's mate coming to find him and comfort him during his treatment is just too lovely.

Feel good story of the day, indeed. Wishing you a speedy recovery, Arnold!

Family

## Mom's praise of audiobooks 'post-baby' has parents sharing how it changed their lives

### 'Audiobooks have helped me regain a part of myself I worried was lost. Let people read however they can.'

Let people read however they can.

Not too long ago, it seemed like you could only be loyal to one team—team “physical books” or team “e-readers.” There was no neutral territory.

That debate might have dwindled, but it echoes on as people take a stand on physical books versus audiobooks, which have become increasingly popular—nearly half of all Americans currently pay for an audio content subscription, and the average adult in the U.S. listens to digital audio for a little over an hour and a half each day, 28% of that being spoken word. Audiobooks had a particularly big surge during the COVID-19 pandemic, as listeners found the activity more comforting and satisfying than a regular book while under quarantine.

You’d think that the general mindset would be “reading in any form has great benefits, so do whatever you want!” But alas, humans do find odd hills to die on.

Ashley Woodfolk might know a thing or two about books, being a writer herself, but it's her perspective as a mom that really offers some fresh insight into why audiobooks and traditional books are not mortal enemies.

Woodfolk recently sent out a tweet rightfully boasting a total of 30 audiobooks listened to this year. It’s a number she never thought she would be able to hit after she became a mom.

“Accessibility is so important,” her post concluded. “Audiobooks have helped me regain a part of myself I worried was lost. Let people read however they can.”

Woodfolk was clearly not the only one to feel this way, as her tweet was met with an overwhelming positive response from people who could relate.

“Audiobooks helped me survive as a mom. Hard nights, never ending bedtimes, depression and feeling completely overwhelmed. These helped me hold something for myself and regain some peace,” wrote one mom.

Another added, “Yes, this! After my first was born I read like 10 books a year for 6 years (after reading 2 a week for the previous, I dunno, 15?). And then with my second, I fell in love with audiobooks and everything changed.”

One person suggested that audiobooks should be more widely embraced for children too, saying, “My kids will listen to audiobooks on road trips or when doing puzzles, and it’s increased their vocabulary and fluency so much!”

Several others shared how audiobooks were a godsend when it came to long commutes. One person commented, “My only alone time is my work commute. If I couldn't do audiobooks, I couldn't read!”

Someone even illustrated how audiobooks actually bring us back to perhaps an even more natural way of enjoying stories, saying, “Stories started around campfires being TOLD,” and adding that “Socrates thought writing things down was a lazy person's way to escape having to use their memory.”

Sure, there’s no feeling quite like a book in your hand. Books have that magical paper smell and turning pages can be heavenly. Even I call Barnes and Noble my happy place. But truly, an even greater feeling is actually being able to consume a great story start-to-finish or gain valuable insights that you might have otherwise been oblivious to. It’s good for the brain and it’s good for the soul. As Woodfolk put it, “Let people read however they can.” What really matters is that we are met where we are, and having access to that which fulfills and nourishes us.