Survival among people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Switzerland: a nationwide population-based analysis

Background: Increasing age, male sex, and pre-existing comorbidities are associated with lower survival from SARS-CoV-2 infection. The interplay between different comorbidities, age, and sex is not fully understood, and it remains unclear if survival decreases linearly with higher ICU occupancy or if there is a threshold beyond which survival falls. Method: This national population-based study included 22,648 people who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection and were hospitalized in Switzerland between February 24, 2020, and March 01, 2021. Bayesian survival models were used to estimate survival after positive SARS-CoV-2 test among people hospitalized with COVID-19 by epidemic wave, age, sex, comorbidities, and ICU occupancy. Two-way interactions between age, sex, and comorbidities were included to assess the differential risk of death across strata. ICU occupancy was modeled using restricted cubic splines to allow for a non-linear association with survival. Results: Of 22,648 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 4785 (21.1%) died. The survival was lower during the first epidemic wave than in the second (predicted survival at 40 days after positive test 76.1 versus 80.5%). During the second epidemic wave, occupancy among all available ICU beds in Switzerland varied between 51.7 and 78.8%. The estimated survival was stable at approximately 81.5% when ICU occupancy was below 70%, but worse when ICU occupancy exceeded this threshold (survival at 80% ICU occupancy: 78.2%; 95% credible interval [CrI] 76.1 to 80.1%). Periods with higher ICU occupancy (>70 vs 70%) were associated with an estimated number of 137 (95% CrI 27 to 242) excess deaths. Comorbid conditions reduced survival more in younger people than in older people. Among comorbid conditions, hypertension and obesity were not associated with poorer survival. Hypertension appeared to decrease survival in combination with cardiovascular disease. Conclusions: Survival after hospitalization with COVID-19 has improved over time, consistent with improved management of severe COVID-19. The decreased survival above 70% national ICU occupancy supports the need to introduce measures for prevention and control of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the population well before ICUs are full.