While everybody worries about hospital space and states of emergency are invoked to demand more respirators, I keep wondering: does hospitalization help?
The short answer is that nobody knows yet. The numbers I have seen for the survival of people on respirators are all over the place, from 33 out of 98 surviving in one British study to 3 of 22 in Wuhan. (And that's just in the short term; for ventilator patients in general, many who survive to be discharged from the hospital don't live out the year.) And of course we have no idea how many of them would have survived without intervention. Perhaps we will find out when we run out of ventilators.
Patients not on ventilators seem mostly to be getting IV fluids and supplemental oxygen, and again we have no idea how much either of these things helps.
It was not until years after the SARS epidemic that we had any good data on the benefits of care, which turned out to be unimpressive. Of course this is bigger and more people in more places are getting sick, so results are coming in faster, but on the other hand the panic atmosphere means few people have time to keep good records.
When you consider that hospitals have become loci of infection, spreading it to health care workers, their families, and other patients, you have to wonder how many lives are saved by hospitalization.
Our medical system is just not nearly as wonderful as we like to imagine. Social distancing, hand-washing and so on are much, much more important than hospital space, and it looks to me like medicine won't really help us that much until we have a vaccine.