Less than 1% of providers at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in a multicenter study that looked at the risks frontline health care personnel face when treating COVID-19 patients – the lowest of all the participating academic health centers. All of the employees that tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies had a prior COVID-19 diagnosis.
“While it’s impossible to completely eliminate risk, this information helps reassure us that we can offer high-quality, compassionate care for COVID-19 patients and keep our staff safe,” said Dr. Matthew Exline
, study co-investigator and medical director of the medical intensive-care unit at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.
Ohio State Wexner Medical Center is one of 13 academic health centers across the country participating in a study that looks at the risks frontline health care personnel face when treating COVID-19 patients. From April 3 – June 19, researchers collected specimens from physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, respiratory therapists and other clinical staff to test for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. Study participants also reported their use of personal protective equipment such as a surgical mask, N95 respirator or powered air purifying respirator; whether they experienced any COVID-19 symptoms or were previously tested for a COVID-19 infection.
Among the 3,248 total participants from all the academic health centers, 194 or 6.0% had positive test results for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. Of those with antibodies, nearly 30% were asymptomatic and about 70% did not have a previous COVID-19 diagnosis. SARS-CoV-2 antibodies were lower in health care personnel who always wore a face covering while caring for patients.
“This study shows that if we ensure that our essential workers have access to appropriate personal protective equipment and adhere to best practices of universal masking and physical distancing, we can safely continue to provide high-quality care even in high risk situations,” Exline said. “Hopefully, the experiences of our health care workers can inform the best practices for other essential workers.”
Ohio State Wexner Medical Center is part of the Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness in the Critically Ill (IVY) Network, which is a collaboration of academic health centers in the United States conducting epidemiologic studies on influenza and COVID-19. This study is ongoing as researchers explore whether COVID-19 infection rates among health care providers change over a longer period of time.