October 22, 2020

Study finds routine COVID-19 screening of HCWs unnecessary

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor's Note

Researchers at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Hospital, Grand Rapids, Michigan, studied the COVID-19 positivity rate of asymptomatic healthcare workers (HCWs) in a 283-bed teaching hospital, and they to conclude that routine testing of HCWs is unnecessary.

To effectively cohort patients, asymptomatic and presymptomatic patients were tested on admission. This screening program showed that 1 in 28 asymptomatic patients were positive for COVID-19.


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A voluntary testing program was offered to HCWs who cared for COVID-19 positive patients in the ED or on the COVID-19 unit. HCWs were excluded if they had symptoms of COVID-19 or previously tested positive.

Of 499 HCWs eligible for screening, 121 volunteered to have testing. The results of all 121 were negative for COVID-19. The negative results of all tested allowed the HCWs to return to work in confidence and also informed the hospital’s decision to not continue routine testing of employees.

The following protective measures also were implemented at the hospital:

  • Universal testing of all patients admitted to the hospital
  • Isolation of all positive patients into COVID-19 care units
  • Negative pressure ventilation systems for COVID-19 care units
  • PPE requirements including surgical masks and universal precautions on all care units, with the addition of gowns and eye protection on COVID-19 units
  • Mandatory N95 mask or PAPR/CAPR use for any aerosol-generating procedures in COVID-19 units
  • “No visitor” policy throughout the hospital
  • Universal symptom screening of all staff arriving to work.

Since implementation, adherence to the protective measures has been central to the safety if HCWs and has contributed to the lack of positive testing among asymptomatic HCWs, the researchers say.

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