MetroHealth Researchers Find First Responders Are at Low Risk of Contracting COVID-19 With PPE Use
Cleveland – A new study from researchers at The MetroHealth System shows masks and personal protective equipment appear to be highly effective in reducing risk when EMS medics care for people infected with COVID-19.
MetroHealth researchers Yasir Tarabichi, MD, and Adam Perzynski, Ph.D., conducted COVID-19 surveillance over a seven-week period with 300 first responders from Cleveland EMS and fire services.
The results showed that while about 70% of first responders had contact with patients who had COVID-19, only around 5% tested positive for the virus. Half of those who tested positive reported having no symptoms. Only one needed to seek healthcare for symptoms.
For consistent results, first responders were tested twice, with both nasal swabs and bloodwork three weeks apart to look for new infections.
"Among the more remarkable findings of our study was that despite the challenges of day-to-day work caring for, at times, very sick COVID-19 patients, first responders demonstrated a low infection rate. This suggests that our first responders are well-trained professionals committed to keeping their patients and coworkers safe,” said Dr. Perzynski, Associate Professor of Medicine at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
MetroHealth physicians say this study supports evidence that masks and PPE work in reducing the risk of contracting the virus. At times, first responders were in enclosed spaces with COVID-19 patients and still didn’t have an increased risk when they wore appropriate protective supplies.
“Recognizing the threat of the pandemic, the first responder community rapidly adopted aggressive personal protective measures and enhanced sanitation of equipment and vehicles,” said Thomas Collins, MD, FACEP, Emergency Medicine physician at MetroHealth.
When asked, most first responders reported adequate PPE supplies and training.
“Cleveland first responders place themselves at great personal risk for the patients they serve and this study highlights the importance of ensuring adequate PPE supplies and training for these essential workers,” said Dr. Tarabichi.
“They also face the same day-to-day risks at home as the rest of us and precautions like wearing a mask, avoiding large gatherings and washing your hands apply to everyone,” added Dr. Perzynski.
The results of this peer-reviewed study are published online in the journal of Pre-Hospital Emergency Care.
The MetroHealth System is redefining health care by going beyond medical treatment to improve the foundations of community health and well-being: affordable housing, a cleaner environment, economic opportunity and access to fresh food, convenient transportation, legal help and other services. The system strives to become as good at preventing disease as it is at treating it.
The system’s more than 600 doctors, 1,700 nurses and 7,800 employees go to work each day with a mission of service, to their patients and to the community. As Cuyahoga County’s safety-net health system, MetroHealth plays an essential role in the region, caring for anyone and everyone, regardless of an ability to pay.
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth operates four hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites throughout Cuyahoga County. The system serves more than 300,000 patients, two-thirds of whom are uninsured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
MetroHealth is home to Cuyahoga County’s most experienced Level I Adult Trauma Center, verified since 1992, and Ohio’s only adult and pediatric trauma and burn center.
As an academic medical center, MetroHealth is committed to research and to teaching and training tomorrow’s caregivers. Each active staff physician holds a faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Its main campus hospital houses the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Lincoln-West School of Science & Health, the only high school in America located inside a hospital.
Knowing that good health is about much more than good medical care, MetroHealth has launched the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ (Health, Opportunity, Partnership, Empowerment), which uses a coordinated, collaborative and strategic approach to help patients with non-medical needs such as healthy food, stable housing and job training.
The MetroHealth Glick Center, a new 11-floor hospital, is under construction on the system’s main campus in Cleveland and is scheduled to welcome its first patients in October 2022. The billion-dollar project is the cornerstone of a wider neighborhood revitalization effort led by the system and its partners in the community.
For more information, visit metrohealth.org.