Dr. Emily Barrett

Nurses Particularly Hard Hit By COVID-19 Infections

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Emily Barrett, PhD  Associate Professor Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology Rutgers School of Public Health

Dr. Barrett

Emily Barrett, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology
Rutgers School of Public Health

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: We started this study in the very early stages of the pandemic to look at SARS-CoV-2 viral transmission and disease severity in health care workers as compared to non-health care workers.  There was a tremendous amount of fear and uncertainty about the virus and the early anecdotal reports coming out of China and Italy highlighted the plight of many frontline health care workers who had been infected on the job. We knew that our U.S. health care workers would soon be facing this tremendous challenge. We started this study to examine risks of infection in our vulnerable frontline health care workers and a comparison group of non-health care workers. Our results are from the early stages of the U.S. pandemic in March-April 2020.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: The main finding was that in the early phase of the U.S. pandemic, health care workers were far likelier to test positive for the virus than non-healthcare workers, which did not surprise us. We also observed that over 11% of nurses tested positive compared to a much smaller proportion of workers in other roles such as attending physicians and resident physicians.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: In the early phases of the U.S. COVID-19 pandemic, health care workers may have been particularly vulnerable to contracting the virus, potentially through spread within hospitals before we knew as much about preventive measures. In our hospitals, nurses were particularly vulnerable, which reinforces the need for adequate PPE and other protections among hospital staff who have extensive, close contact with patients. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: With a new wave of COVID-19 infections gripping the country right now, we will now be able to study whether the protections that we have put in place since the initial surge in March are effective in keeping our health care workers safe.

No disclosures


Barrett ES, Horton DB, Roy J, Gennaro ML, Brooks A, Tischfield J, Greenberg P, Andrews T, Jagpal S, Reilly N, Blaser MJ, Carson J, Panettieri RA. Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in previously undiagnosed health care workers at the onset of the U.S. COVID-19 epidemic. medRxiv [Preprint]. 2020 Apr 24:2020.04.20.20072470. doi: 10.1101/2020.04.20.20072470. PMID: 32511600; PMCID: PMC7276027.



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Last Updated on November 16, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD