Cohort of Four Thousand Four Hundred Four Persons Under Investigation for COVID-19 in a New York Hospital and Predictors of ICU Care and Ventilation

Ann Emerg Med. 2020 May 11;S0196-0644(20)30353-X. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2020.05.011. Online ahead of print.


Study objective: Most coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) reports have focused on severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) positive patients. However, at initial presentation, most patients' viral status is unknown. Determination of factors that predict initial and subsequent need for ICU and invasive mechanical ventilation is critical for resource planning and allocation. We describe our experience with 4,404 persons under investigation and explore predictors of ICU care and invasive mechanical ventilation at a New York COVID-19 epicenter.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of all persons under investigation and presenting to a large academic medical center emergency department (ED) in New York State with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19. The association between patient predictor variables and SARS-CoV-2 status, ICU admission, invasive mechanical ventilation, and mortality was explored with univariate and multivariate analyses.

Results: Between March 12 and April 14, 2020, we treated 4,404 persons under investigation for COVID-19 infection, of whom 68% were discharged home, 29% were admitted to a regular floor, and 3% to an ICU. One thousand six hundred fifty-one of 3,369 patients tested have had SARS-CoV-2-positive results to date. Of patients with regular floor admissions, 13% were subsequently upgraded to the ICU after a median of 62 hours (interquartile range 28 to 106 hours). Fifty patients required invasive mechanical ventilation in the ED, 4 required out-of-hospital invasive mechanical ventilation, and another 167 subsequently required invasive mechanical ventilation in a median of 60 hours (interquartile range 26 to 99) hours after admission. Testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 and lower oxygen saturations were associated with need for ICU and invasive mechanical ventilation, and with death. High respiratory rates were associated with the need for ICU care.

Conclusion: Persons under investigation for COVID-19 infection contribute significantly to the health care burden beyond those ruling in for SARS-CoV-2. For every 100 admitted persons under investigation, 9 will require ICU stay, invasive mechanical ventilation, or both on arrival and another 12 within 2 to 3 days of hospital admission, especially persons under investigation with lower oxygen saturations and positive SARS-CoV-2 swab results. This information should help hospitals manage the pandemic efficiently.