The State-of-the-Pandemic" articles have been written by the SHEA Board of Trustees to respond to the rapidly changing COVID-19 crisis. These short commentaries are designed to provide perspective for institutions facing challenges at various stages of the pandemic.

More than 700 studies, including 250 international abstracts, highlighting worldwide progress in preventing and controlling healthcare-associated infections and addressing antibiotic resistance were published today as part of the proceedings from the Sixth Decennial International Conference on Healthcare-Associated Infections. The Sixth Decennial, a conference co-hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, was cancelled in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All abstracts accepted for the meeting appear in a supplement for the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

The floors of hospital rooms are quickly and frequently contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria within hours of patient admission, creating a route of transfer of potentially dangerous organisms to patients, according to a study published today as part of the proceedings from Decennial 2020: The Sixth International Conference on Healthcare-Associated Infections.

In September the Trump Administration released an “Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping,” which would allow federal agencies to terminate contracts intended to help promote study and understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion across government institutions.

The executive order signed last week that strips protections from our nation’s civil service workforce comes at a time when the critical role of career staff in guiding federal responses to public health needs could not be more clear.

While the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 continue to highlight needs for new and proven tools to combat the spread and effects of this novel coronavirus, the development, evaluation and use of treatment strategies must be guided by science. Establishing the safety and efficacy of potential therapies is essential to ensuring their appropriate and effective use. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration must continue to base any approval, including Emergency Use Authorization of treatments and vaccines, on established scientific standards. Promising results among small numbers of patients to approaches that include antibody therapies are not a substitute for the rigorous scientific review that is essential to ensuring the safety and effectiveness of medicines. Relying on such limited data can put patients at risk of adverse events, and an EUA can reduce the ability to conduct the clinical trials that are needed to assess the safety and efficacy of antibody treatments. For this reason, we urge FDA to apply its highest standards and act with appropriate deliberation on the EUA application filed by Regeneron today, and on the planned application announced by Lilly this week.

As our fight against this pandemic continues, our understanding of the virus will continue to grow. The practice of existing measures to prevent, contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, remains fundamental to protecting ourselves and each other. The use of masks and maintaining physical distances, in any setting where transmission can occur, restricting the size of gatherings, as well as practicing strict hygiene, remain imperative. Testing for the virus and contact tracing of all people exposed to an infected, or potentially infected, person are crucial to identifying risks and targeting responses. People who are confirmed to be infected should remain isolated, whether receiving treatment or not, to avoid exposing additional people to the virus and its potentially deadly effects, and to avoid furthering its spread. For the same reason, people who have been exposed should be tested and quarantined.

The quest for vaccines and treatments continues. As we face the work ahead, the tragic toll of this pandemic demands a response guided by science and solidarity.

  • Mary Hayden, M.D., FIDSA, FSHEA – President-elect, Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America
  • Thomas File, M.D., FIDSA – President, Infectious Diseases Society of America
  • Jason M. Pogue, PharmD, BCPS, BCIDP – President, Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists
  • Judith Feinberg, M.D. – Chair, HIV Medicine Association 
  • Kristina A. Bryant, M.D., FPIDS – President, Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society