To identify characteristics associated with positive severe acute respiratory coronavirus virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests in healthcare personnel.
Retrospective cohort study.
A multihospital healthcare system.
Employees who reported SARS-CoV-2 exposures and/or symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) between March 30, 2020, and September 20, 2020, and were subsequently referred for SARS-CoV-2 PCR testing.
Data from exposure and/or symptom reports were linked to the corresponding SARS-CoV-2 PCR test result. Employee demographic characteristics, occupational characteristics, SARS-CoV-2 exposure history, and symptoms were evaluated as potential risk factors for having a positive SARS-CoV-2 PCR test.
Among 6,289 employees who received SARS-CoV-2 PCR testing, 873 (14%) had a positive test. Independent risk factors for a positive PCR included: working in a patient care area (relative risk [RR], 1.82; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.37–2.40), having a known SARS-CoV-2 exposure (RR, 1.20; 95% CI, 1.04–1.37), reporting a community versus an occupational exposure (RR, 1.87; 95% CI, 1.49–2.34), and having an infected household contact (RR, 2.47; 95% CI, 2.11–2.89). Nearly all HCP (99%) reported symptoms. Symptoms associated with a positive PCR in a multivariable analysis included loss of sense of smell (RR, 2.60; 95% CI, 2.09–3.24) or taste (RR, 1.75; 95% CI, 1.40–2.20), cough (RR, 1.95; 95% CI, 1.40–2.20), fever, and muscle aches.
In this cohort of >6,000 healthcare system and academic medical center employees early in the pandemic, community exposures, and particularly household exposures, were associated with greater risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection than occupational exposures. This work highlights the importance of COVID-19 prevention in the community and in healthcare settings to prevent COVID-19.