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During March 27–July 14, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Healthcare Safety Network extended its surveillance to hospital capacities responding to COVID-19 pandemic. The data showed wide variations across hospitals in case burden, bed occupancies, ventilator usage, and healthcare personnel and supply status. These data were used to inform emergency responses.
The rapid spread of severe acute respiratory coronavirus virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) throughout key regions of the United States in early 2020 placed a premium on timely, national surveillance of hospital patient censuses. To meet that need, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN), the nation’s largest hospital surveillance system, launched a module for collecting hospital coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) data. We present time-series estimates of the critical hospital capacity indicators from April 1 to July 14, 2020.
From March 27 to July 14, 2020, the NHSN collected daily data on hospital bed occupancy, number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19, and the availability and/or use of mechanical ventilators. Time series were constructed using multiple imputation and survey weighting to allow near–real-time daily national and state estimates to be computed.
During the pandemic’s April peak in the United States, among an estimated 431,000 total inpatients, 84,000 (19%) had COVID-19. Although the number of inpatients with COVID-19 decreased from April to July, the proportion of occupied inpatient beds increased steadily. COVID-19 hospitalizations increased from mid-June in the South and Southwest regions after stay-at-home restrictions were eased. The proportion of inpatients with COVID-19 on ventilators decreased from April to July.
The NHSN hospital capacity estimates served as important, near–real-time indicators of the pandemic’s magnitude, spread, and impact, providing quantitative guidance for the public health response. Use of the estimates detected the rise of hospitalizations in specific geographic regions in June after they declined from a peak in April. Patient outcomes appeared to improve from early April to mid-July.
The CDC National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) is the nation’s most widely used healthcare-associated infection (HAI) and antibiotic use and resistance (AUR) surveillance system. More than 22,000 healthcare facilities report data to the NHSN. The NHSN data are used by facilities, the CDC, health departments, the CMS, among other organizations and agencies. In 2017, the CDC updated the NHSN Agreement to Participate and Consent (Agreement), completed by facilities, broadening health department access to NHSN data and extending eligibility for data use agreements (DUAs) to local and territorial health departments. DUAs enable access to NHSN data reported by facilities in the health department’s jurisdiction and have been available to state health departments since 2011. The updated agreement also enables the CDC to provide NHSN data to health departments for targeted prevention projects outbreak investigations and responses. Methods: We reviewed the current NHSN DUA inventory to assess the extent to which health departments use the NHSN’s new data access provisions and used semistructured interviews with health department staff, conducted via emails, phone, and in person conversations, to identify and describe their NHSN data uses. Results: As of late 2019, the NHSN has DUAs with health departments in 17 states, 7 local health departments (including municipalities and counties), and 1 US territory. The NHSN also has received requests from 2 state health departments for data supporting HAI prevention projects. Health departments with DUAs described improved relationships with facilities in their jurisdictions because of new opportunities to offer NHSN data analysis assistance to facilities. One local health department analyzed their NHSN carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) data to identify (1) facilities in its jurisdiction with comparatively high CRE infection burden and (2) geographic areas to target for a CRE isolate submission program. Outreach to facilities with high CRE burden led to enrollment of 15 clinical laboratories into a voluntary isolate submission program to analyze CRE isolates for additional characterization. Examples of health departments’ use of data for action include: notifying facilities with high standardized infection ratios (SIRs) and sharing Targeted Assessment for Prevention (TAP) reports. Conclusions: The NHSN’s role as a shared surveillance resource has expanded in multiple public health jurisdictions as a result of new data access provisions. Health departments are using NHSN data in their programmatic responses to HAI and AR challenges. New access to NHSN data is enabling public health jurisdictions to assess problems and opportunities, provide guidance for prevention projects, and support program evaluations.
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