Objective: Firefighter first responders and other emergency medical services (EMS) personnel have been among the highest risk healthcare workers for illness during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. We sought to determine the rate of seropositivity for SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies and of acute asymptomatic infection among firefighter first responders in a single county with early exposure in the pandemic. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of clinically active firefighters cross-trained as paramedics or EMTs in the fire departments of Santa Clara County, California. Firefighters without current symptoms were tested between June and August 2020. Our primary outcomes were rates of SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibody seropositivity and SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR swab positivity for acute infection. We report cumulative incidence, participant characteristics with frequencies and proportions, and proportion positive and associated relative risk (with 95% confidence intervals). Results: We enrolled 983 out of 1339 eligible participants (response rate: 73.4%). Twenty-five participants (2.54%, 95% CI 1.65-3.73) tested positive for IgG antibodies and 9 (0.92%, 95% CI 0.42-1.73) tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 by RT-PCR. Our cumulative incidence, inclusive of self-reported prior positive PCR tests, was 34 (3.46%, 95% CI 2.41-4.80). Conclusion: In a county with one of the earliest outbreaks in the United States, the seroprevalence among firefighter first responders was lower than that reported by other studies of frontline health care workers, while the cumulative incidence remained higher than that seen in the surrounding community.
Keywords: COVID-19; EMS; firefighter; pandemic; public health.