Incidence of SARS-CoV-2 Infection among Health Care Personnel, First Responders, and Other Essential Workers during a Prevaccination COVID-19 Surge in Arizona

Katherine D. Ellingson, Joe K. Gerald, Xiaoxiao Sun, James Hollister, Karen Lutrick, Joel Parker, Patrick Rivers, Shawn C. Beitel, Zoe Baccam, Julie Mayo Lamberte, Lauren Grant, Elizabeth Kim, Rachana Bhattarai, Kenneth Komatsu, Jennifer Meece, Preeta K. Kutty, Mark G. Thompson, Jefferey L. Burgess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

Importance: Understanding the relative risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection across occupations can inform guidance to protect workers and communities. Less is known about infection risk for first responders and other essential workers than for health care personnel. Objective: To compare the prevaccination incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection among first responders and other essential workers with incidence among health care personnel. Design, Setting, and Participants: This was a prospective cohort study of health care personnel, first responders, and other essential workers in Arizona from July 20, 2020, to March 14, 2021. Participants were seronegative at enrollment, had frequent direct contact with others at work, worked at least 20 hours per week, and submitted weekly nasal swab specimens for real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction analysis. Data analyses were performed from April 19, 2021, to June 4, 2021. Exposures: Occupation was the primary exposure of interest. Confounders assessed were sociodemographic characteristics, health status, community exposure, and work exposure. Main Outcomes and Measures: Crude incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection was defined as the sum of first positive SARS-CoV-2 infections in participants divided by person-weeks at risk. Negative binomial regression was used to model SARS-CoV-2 infection by occupation to estimate unadjusted and adjusted incidence rate ratios (IRRs). The least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (LASSO) method was used to generate a parsimonious multivariable model. Results: The study cohort comprised 1766 Arizona workers (mean age [SD], 43.8 [11.1] years; 1093 [61.9%] female; 401 [22.7%] were Hispanic and 1530 [86.6%] were White individuals) of whom 44.2% were health care personnel, 22.4% first responders, and 33.4% other essential workers. The cohort was followed up for 23393 person-weeks. Crude incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection was 6.7, 13.2, and 7.4 per 1000 person-weeks at risk for health care personnel, first responders, and other essential workers, respectively. In unadjusted models, first responders had twice the incidence of infection as health care personnel (IRRs, 2.01; 95% CI, 1.44-2.79). While attenuated, this risk remained elevated in adjusted LASSO-optimized models (IRR, 1.60; 95% CI, 1.07-2.38). Risk of infection among other essential workers was no different than for health care personnel in unadjusted or adjusted models. Conclusions and Relevance: This prospective cohort study found that first responders had a higher incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection than health care personnel, even after adjusting for potential confounding factors. Given their frequent contact with each other and with the public and their high rates of SARS-CoV-2 infection, the safety challenges for first responders warrant greater public health attention and research..

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E213318
JournalJAMA Health Forum
Volume2
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 22 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • General Medicine
  • Health Policy

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