Hospital Workers Remain at Higher Risk of Contracting COVID-19

November 24, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll nationwide, with more than 250,000 deaths so far and the long-predicted second wave beginning its impact. The nation’s hospitals have borne the brunt of this impact as doctors, nurses, social workers and other front-line workers working long hours to care for a growing wave of ailing patients. But overwork is hardly the only risk for these workers or even the largest. Many are also at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 themselves.

In a study of healthcare workers at two Rutgers-affiliated hospitals over two crucial weeks of the spring onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses were found to be more at risk than any other group for contracting the coronavirus, according to New Jersey 101.5.

The study, published in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases, included 546 workers at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick and University Hospital in Newark who had regular contact with COVID-19 patients, and 283 non-healthcare workers, primarily Rutgers faculty and staff, with no patient contact.

Even early on, it was clear healthcare workers would be particularly at risk. They will be among the first recipients of an eventual COVID-19 vaccine, and going forward, making sure they have adequate and plentiful personal protective equipment remains a top priority, particularly for those, such as nurses, on the front lines.

But a follow-up study also conducted by Rutgers identified elevated rates of COVID-19 infections among all types of hospital workers — security staff, housekeeping, and food service, many with no direct patient contact.

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