In this study, we directly compared coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients hospitalized during the first (27 February-28 July 2020) and second (29 July-31 December 2020) wave of the pandemic at a large tertiary center in northern Germany. Patients who presented during the first (n = 174) and second (n = 331) wave did not differ in age (median [IQR], 59 years [46, 71] vs. 58 years [42, 73]; p = 0.82) or age-adjusted Charlson Comorbidity Index (median [IQR], 2 [1, 4] vs. 2 [0, 4]; p = 0.50). During the second wave, a higher proportion of patients were treated as outpatients (11% [n = 20] vs. 20% [n = 67]), fewer patients were admitted to the intensive care unit (43% [n = 75] vs. 29% [n = 96]), and duration of hospitalization was significantly shorter (median days [IQR], 14 [8, 34] vs. 11 [5, 19]; p < 0.001). However, in-hospital mortality was high throughout the pandemic and did not differ between the two periods (16% [n = 27] vs. 16% [n = 54]; p = 0.89). While novel treatment strategies and increased knowledge about the clinical management of COVID-19 may have resulted in a less severe disease course in some patients, in-hospital mortality remained unaltered at a high level. These findings highlight the unabated need for efforts to hamper severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmission, to increase vaccination coverage, and to develop novel treatment strategies to prevent mortality and decrease morbidity.
Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; first wave; hospital; mortality; patients; second wave; treatment.