Background: Healthcare workers (HCW) serving on the front lines of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have been at increased risk for infection due to 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 two 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 March 12 and April 23, a total of 3,477 symptomatic employees were tested for COVID-19 at two 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%) to non-frontline 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 non-frontline 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.
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