Prevalence of Coronavirus Disease 2019 Infection and Outcomes Among Symptomatic Healthcare Workers in Seattle, Washington

Clin Infect Dis. 2020 Dec 17;71(10):2702-2707. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa761.


Background: Healthcare workers (HCWs) who serve on the front lines of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have been at increased risk for infection due to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in some settings. Healthcare-acquired infection has been reported in similar epidemics, but there are limited data on the prevalence of COVID-19 among HCWs and their associated clinical outcomes in the United States.

Methods: We established 2 high-throughput employee testing centers in Seattle, Washington, with drive-through and walk-through options for symptomatic employees in the University of Washington Medicine system and its affiliated organizations. Using data from these testing centers, we report the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection among symptomatic employees and describe the clinical characteristics and outcomes among employees with COVID-19.

Results: Between 12 March 2020 and 23 April 2020, 3477 symptomatic employees were tested for COVID-19 at 2 employee testing centers; 185 (5.3%) employees tested positive for COVID-19. The prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 was similar when comparing frontline HCWs (5.2%) with nonfrontline staff (5.5%). Among 174 positive employees reached for follow-up at least 14 days after diagnosis, 6 reported COVID-related hospitalization; all recovered.

Conclusions: During the study period, we observed that the prevalence of positive SARS-CoV-2 tests among symptomatic HCWs was comparable to that of symptomatic nonfrontline staff. Reliable and rapid access to testing for employees is essential to preserve the health, safety, and availability of the healthcare workforce during this pandemic and to facilitate the rapid return of SARS-CoV-2-negative employees to work.

Keywords: COVID-19; employee health; healthcare workers.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 Testing
  • COVID-19*
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Washington / epidemiology