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Journal of clinical virology


BACKGROUND: The level of asymptomatic infection with SARS-CoV-2 could be substantial and among health care workers (HCWs) a source of continuing transmission of the virus to patients and co-workers.

OBJECTIVES: Measure the period prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 PCR positivity and seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies among a random sample of asymptomatic health system hospital-based health care workers (HCWs) 6½ -15½ weeks after 4/5/2020, the peak of the first surge of COVID-19 admissions.

RESULTS: Of 524 eligible and consented participants from four metropolitan hospitals, nasopharyngeal swabs were obtained from 439 (83.8 %) and blood from 374 (71.4 %). Using PCR nucleic acid-based amplification (NAAT) methods, the period prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection was 0.23 % (95 % confidence interval (CI) 0.01 %-1.28 %; 1/439) from 5/21/20-7/16/20. The seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies from June 17-July 24, 2020 was 2.41 % (95 % CI 1.27 %-4.51 %; 9/374). Those who were reactive were younger (median age 36 versus 44 years; p = 0.050), and those with self-reported Hispanic/Latino ethnicity had a higher seroprevalence (2/12 = 16.7 % versus 7/352 = 2.0 %; p = 0.051). There were no significant differences by sex, race, residence, hospital, unit or job type. The one employee who was found to be PCR test positive in this study was also reactive for IgG antibodies, tested 27 days later.

CONCLUSIONS: The period prevalence of PCR positivity to SARS-CoV-2 and IgG seroprevalence was unexpectedly low in asymptomatic HCWs after a peak in COVID-19 admissions and the establishment of state and institutional infection control policies, suggesting that routine screening tests while community prevalence is relatively low would produce a minimal yield.

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