COVID-19 screenings upon hospital entry offer few benefits, Yale study finds 

Screening all patients, visitors and healthcare workers for COVID-19 upon entrance to Yale New Haven (Conn.) Hospital offered limited infection control benefits amid the pandemic, according to a study published Nov. 28 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Yale researchers analyzed data on 951,033 COVID-19 screenings performed at the academic medical center between March 17, 2020 and May 8, 2021. 

In total, just 0.07 percent of screenings identified people who had a fever, recent COVID-19 exposure, virus symptoms or recent travel to high-risk areas. Failed screenings peaked in March 2020 at 2.64 percent before falling in subsequent months, "possibly because of greater adherence to screening protocols and enhanced symptom and exposure vigilance," the researchers said.

Yale New Haven spent nearly $1.3 million in annual compensation for 29.5 full-time staff to conduct 24/7 COVID-19 screenings. This figure excludes costs for managerial staff and supplies, such as masks or thermometers. The minimum cost to identify one screening failure was $223.58 during the first COVID-19 wave and $2350.96 across the entire study period, researchers estimated. 

"Surveillance screening is expensive for healthcare systems and a daily annoyance for those who work there," two physicians from the University of California, San Francisco and NYC Health + Hospitals wrote in a Nov. 28 editor's note accompanying the study. 

"The authors suggest that screening may have maximum utility during the early phase of a public health crisis," they wrote. "Nonetheless, self-reported symptoms have a low sensitivity for true infection with COVID-19, so it remains unclear the degree to which screening measures are truly effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19."


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