SARS-CoV-2 Screening Among Symptom-Free Healthcare Workers

medRxiv. 2020 Nov 14;2020.07.31.20166066. doi: 10.1101/2020.07.31.20166066. Preprint


Background: Transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is possible among symptom-free individuals and some patients are avoiding medically necessary healthcare visits for fear of becoming infected in the healthcare setting. Limited data are available on the point prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in symptom-free U.S. healthcare workers (HCW).

Methods: A cross-sectional convenience sample of symptom-free HCWs from the metropolitan area surrounding Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota was enrolled between April 20 th and June 24 th , 2020. A participant self-collected nasopharyngeal swab (NPS) was obtained. SARS-CoV-2 infection was assessed via polymerase chain reaction. Participants were queried about their willingness to repeat a self-collection NPS for diagnostic purposes. We had >95% power to detect at least one positive test if the true underlying prevalence of SARS-CoV2 was ≥1%.

Results: Among n=489 participants 80% were female and mean age±SD was 41±11. Participants reported being physicians (14%), nurse practitioners (8%), physician's assistants (4%), nurses (51%), medics (3%), or other which predominantly included laboratory technicians and administrative roles (22%). Exposure to a known/suspected COVID-19 case in the 14 days prior to enrollment was reported in 40% of participants. SARS-CoV-2 was not detected in any participant. Over 95% of participants reported a willingness to repeat a self-collected NP swab in the future.

Conclusions: The point prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection was likely <1% in a convenience sample of symptom-free Minnesota healthcare workers from April 20 th and June 24 th , 2020. Self-collected NP swabs are well-tolerated and a viable alternative to provider-collected swabs to preserve PPE.

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