It would stand to reason that people who work in urgent care centers are exposed to a higher viral load of whatever’s going around at any given time—including COVID-19. The larger problem, according to a study published by JAMA Network, is that the virus goes undetected in healthcare workers too often. Conjecture is that they have mild or no symptoms, and even in a healthcare setting testing isn’t thorough enough. The study, conducted by the Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness in the Critically Ill Network, which actually focuses on influenza and COVID-19, includes 3,248 clinicians who cared for patients with COVID-19 between April and June at 13 facilities in 12 states. The disparity between positive tests and complaints of symptoms is striking; while 194 individuals (6% of the participants) tested positive for antibodies, 69% of those people claimed they had never been diagnosed with the virus, and 29% said they didn’t remember experiencing any symptoms in the preceding months. There did seem to be some protection afforded by vigilance to preventive measures, however, as participants who said they always wore a surgical mask, N95 respirator, or powered air purifying respirator while caring for patients were less likely to become infected. That’s backed up by another study, this one from Massachusetts General Hospital, in which the positive test rate among healthcare workers there dropped more than 3% (from 14.7% to 11.5%) after the facility instituted a universal masking policy for staff. The take-home: If you want to keep your team healthy and on the job, keep testing and take every precaution possible.
Your Clinical Team May Not Be as Healthy as You Think They Are