Coronavirus Disease 2019 Infections Among Emergency Health Care Personnel: Impact on Delivery of United States Emergency Medical Care, 2020

Project COVERED Emergency Department Network

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study objective: In the early months of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and before vaccine availability, there were concerns that infected emergency department (ED) health care personnel could present a threat to the delivery of emergency medical care. We examined how the pandemic affected staffing levels and whether COVID-19 positive staff were potentially infectious at work in a cohort of US ED health care personnel in 2020. Methods: The COVID-19 Evaluation of Risks in Emergency Departments (Project COVERED) project was a multicenter prospective cohort study of US ED health care personnel conducted from May to December 2020. During surveillance, health care personnel completed weekly electronic surveys and underwent periodic serology and nasal reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction testing for SARS-CoV-2, and investigators captured weekly data on health care facility COVID-19 prevalence and health care personnel staffing. Surveys asked about symptoms, potential exposures, work attendance, personal protective equipment use, and behaviors. Results: We enrolled 1,673 health care personnel who completed 29,825 person weeks of surveillance. Eighty-nine (5.3%) health care personnel documented 90 (0.3%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.2% to 0.4%) person weeks of missed work related to documented or concerns for COVID-19 infection. Health care personnel experienced symptoms of COVID-19 during 1,256 (4.2%) person weeks and worked at least one shift whereas symptomatic during 1,042 (83.0%) of these periods. Seventy-five (4.5%) participants tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 during the surveillance period, including 43 (57.3%) who indicated they never experienced symptoms; 74 (98.7%; 95% CI 90.7% to 99.9%) infected health care personnel worked at least one shift during the initial period of infection, and 71 (94.7%) continued working until laboratory confirmation of their infection. Physician staffing was not associated with the facility or community COVID-19 levels within any time frame studied (Kendall tau's 0.02, 0.056, and 0.081 for no shift, one-week time shift, and 2-week time shift, respectively). Conclusions: During the first wave of the pandemic, COVID-19 infections in ED health care personnel were infrequent, and the time lost from the workforce was minimal. Health care personnel frequently reported for work while infected with SARS-CoV-2 before laboratory confirmation. The ED staffing levels were poorly correlated with facility and community COVID-19 burden.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of Emergency Medicine
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


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