What We’re Reading: Hospitals Strained; Pfizer Trial Enrollment; Variation in Virus Mitigation

Hospitals struggle to respond adequately to the pandemic surge; enrollment is almost complete for Pfizer and BioNTech’s coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine candidate trial; the CDC reports mixed results for COVID-19 mitigation behaviors.

Hospitals Continue to Suffer as COVID-19 Cases Surge

As cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) surged 46% in the past month, notes The New York Times, hospitals and regional health care systems are straining to adequately respond to the increasing influx of patients. Frontline workers are also at a premium, as more are testing positive and several states—Idaho, Missouri, New Mexico, and Utah—are now finding it difficult to locate replacements. The current 7-day case average is greater than 70,000, which is a first for the pandemic, and to keep up, hospitals are now transporting patients elsewhere for care. At University Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, for example, patients are being airlifted to San Antonio.

Enrollment Almost at Its Max for Pfizer Phase 3 COVID-19 Vaccine Trial

With a total estimated enrollment of 44,000, originally announced last month, Pfizer and collaborator BioNTech have reached the 95% mark for trial volunteers of more than 42,000, reports CNBC. Of this group, close to 86% have received both vaccine doses. Scientists working on the trial are aiming for an immune system response from the messenger RNA the vaccine candidate contains, and they are currently awaiting an interim efficacy analysis from the data monitoring board. Pfizer has already commented that it won’t seek an emergency use authorization from the FDA until these data are available.

CDC Study Results Reveal a Mixed Pandemic Response

Findings from the CDC’s most recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report show that age may play a role in response to suggestions for pandemic mitigation. The Data Foundation COVID Impact Survey—conducted from April 20 to 26, May 4 to 10, and May 30 to June 8—shows a steady uptick in mask wearing from 78% in April to 83% in May to 89% in June; however, stark disparities were apparent, in that participation in mitigation behaviors was lowest among the youngest (19-29 years) surveyed and highest among the oldest (≥ 60 years) participants. In addition, those who responded continuous mask use at each of the survey time points were more likely to demonstrate further mitigation behaviors vs those reporting no mask use.