COVID-19 less common in California hospital staff than community, study finds

Antibody testing at Orange County, Calif.-based Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian found fewer employees had contracted COVID-19 than the surrounding community, which may be due in part to the hospital's rigorous infection control precautions, according to a study published in the medial preprint server Medrxiv.

The hospital tested more than 3,000 hospital employees and independent medical staff for antibodies in May and June. Data on 2,932 employees were included in the analysis.

Preliminary results show about 1.1 percent of workers had COVID-19 antibodies, compared to about 4.4 percent of local community members.

"Despite the headlines you see saying healthcare workers are at higher risk of contracting the disease, we haven’t seen that," lead author Michael Brant-Zawadzki, MD, senior physician executive at Hoag, told the Orange County Register. "In fact, we're seeing the reverse of that. The question is, why?"

Dr. Brant-Zawadzki said the trend could be due to hospitals' thorough infection control precautions and the fact that many healthcare workers may maintain this level of vigilance in their personal lives. Healthcare workers may also have a greater presence of T cells that offer immunity to the virus compared to the general population, researchers noted.

The research has not been peer reviewed and is ongoing. Researchers plan to test 6,000 healthcare workers before concluding the study.

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