Clinical Presentation, Course, and Risk Factors Associated with Mortality in a Severe Outbreak of COVID-19 in Rhode Island, USA, April-June 2020

Pathogens. 2020 Dec 24;10(1):8. doi: 10.3390/pathogens10010008.


Long-term care facilities (LTCFs) have had a disproportionally high mortality rate due to COVID-19. We describe a rapidly escalating COVID-19 outbreak among 116 LTCF residents in Rhode Island, USA. Overall, 111 (95.6%) residents tested positive and, of these, 48 (43.2%) died. The most common comorbidities were hypertension (84.7%) and cardiovascular disease (84.7%). A small percentage (9%) of residents were asymptomatic, while 33.3% of residents were pre-symptomatic, with progression to symptoms within a median of three days following the positive test. While typical symptoms of fever (80.2%) and cough (43.2%) were prevalent, shortness of breath (14.4%) was rarely found despite common hypoxemia (95.5%). The majority of patients demonstrated atypical symptoms with the most common being loss of appetite (61.3%), lethargy (42.3%), diarrhea (37.8%), and fatigue (32.4%). Many residents had increased agitation (38.7%) and anxiety (5.4%), potentially due to the restriction measures or the underlying mental illness. The fever curve was characterized by an intermittent low-grade fever, often the first presenting symptom. Mortality was associated with a disease course beginning with a loss of appetite and lethargy, as well as one more often involving fever greater than 38 °C, loss of appetite, altered mental status, diarrhea, and respiratory distress. Interestingly, no differences in age or comorbidities were noted between survivors and non-survivors. Taking demographic factors into account, treatment with anticoagulation was still associated with reduced mortality (adjusted OR 0.16; 95% C.I. 0.06-0.39; p < 0.001). Overall, the clinical features of the disease in this population can be subtle and the symptoms are commonly atypical. However, clinical decline among those who did not survive was often rapid with patients expiring within 10 days from disease detection. Further studies are needed to better explain the variability in clinical course of COVID-19 among LTCF residents, specifically the factors affecting mortality, the differences observed in symptom presentation, and rate of clinical decline.

Keywords: COVID-19; LTCF; nursing homes; pandemic.