Skip to main content

New Study Finds Healthcare Settings Do Not Pose Added Risk Factor for Covid-19 Infection Spread Among U.S. Healthcare Personnel

March 16, 2021 | Deborah Kotz

Anthony Harris, MDUM School of Medicine Researchers Find Biggest Risk Factor Is Having Known Exposure to Someone Who Tested Positive in Household or Community

Healthcare personnel who were infected with COVID-19 faced stronger risk factors outside of the workplace than in their hospital or healthcare settings. That is the finding of a new study published today in the Journal of the American Medical association's JAMA Network Open conducted by University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) researchers and colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and three other universities.

The study examined survey data from nearly 25,000 healthcare providers in Baltimore, Atlanta, and Chicago, including at University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) hospitals. They found that having a known exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the community was the strongest risk factor for testing positive for virus. Living in a zip code with a high COVID-19 cumulative incidence was also a strong risk factor.

“The news is reassuring in that it shows the measures taken are working to prevent infections from spreading in healthcare facilities,” said study co-author Anthony Harris, MD, MPH, Professor of Epidemiology & Public Health at UMSOM. “Vaccination for healthcare workers, however, should remain a priority because of continual exposures in the workplace. There is also an urgent need to keep healthcare providers healthy so they can care for sick patients and reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to vulnerable patients.”

Researchers from Emory University School of Medicine and Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta, Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine also participated in this study. UMSOM faculty Robert Christenson, PhD, Brent King, MD, Surbhi Leekha, MBBS, Lyndsay O’Hara, PhD, Peter Rock, MD, MBA, and Gregory Schrank, MD, were co-authors on this study. The study was funded by CDC's Prevention Epicenters Program.

“Factors presumed to contribute most to infection risk among healthcare providers, including caring for COVID-19 patients, were not associated with increased risk in this study,” said study co-author Sujan Reddy MD, an infectious disease specialist at the CDC. The highest risks to healthcare workers may be from exposures in the community.

The study did, however, have some important caveats. Since infection control practices were not standardized across the various healthcare sites, the study could not determine the level of effectiveness of personal protective equipment (N95 respirators, surgical masks, gowns, and face shields). Nor could the study determine whether certain infection control practices, such as frequent disinfection of surfaces in exam rooms, were better than others in preventing infection spread.

Mohan Suntha, MDConfirming evidence from other studies, this study found that Black Americans who were healthcare personnel were more likely to test positive for COVID-19 infections than their white counterparts. This may be due to existing disparities in community exposure rather than from healthcare-associated exposures.

“We’re proud of this very important collaborative clinical work with our research colleagues,” said Mohan Suntha, MD, MBA, President and CEO of UMMS.  “We have made the safety of our team members a top priority throughout this pandemic, and it is incredibly gratifying to see that our efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals have worked. This is also another example of the importance of the partnership between our academic-focused health care System and the groundbreaking discovery-based medicine work happening every day at the UM School of Medicine.”

E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBAE. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, UM Baltimore, the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor, and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine commented “As front-line and support staff at hospitals and health systems continue to tirelessly battle COVID-19, they can draw reassurance in this important research finding that the infection control measures in place protected themselves and their families. We need to know that we are doing all we can to protect our healthcare heroes, from providing them with adequate protective equipment to giving them early access to vaccines.” 

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

Now in its third century, the University of Maryland School of Medicine was chartered in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States. It continues today as one of the fastest growing, top-tier biomedical research enterprises in the world -- with 46 academic departments, centers, institutes, and programs, and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians, scientists, and allied health professionals, including members of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and a distinguished two-time winner of the Albert E. Lasker Award in Medical Research.  With an operating budget of more than $1.2 billion, the School of Medicine works closely in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide research-intensive, academic and clinically based care for nearly 2 million patients each year. The School of Medicine has nearly $600 million in extramural funding, with most of its academic departments highly ranked among all medical schools in the nation in research funding.  As one of the seven professional schools that make up the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine has a total population of nearly 9,000 faculty and staff, including 2,500 students, trainees, residents, and fellows. The combined School of Medicine and Medical System (“University of Maryland Medicine”) has an annual budget of over $6 billion and an economic impact of nearly $20 billion on the state and local community. The School of Medicine, which ranks as the 8th highest among public medical schools in research productivity (according to the Association of American Medical Colleges profile) is an innovator in translational medicine, with 606 active patents and 52 start-up companies.  In the latest U.S. News & World Report ranking of the Best Medical Schools, published in 2021, the UM School of Medicine is ranked #9 among the 92 public medical schools in the U.S., and in the top 15 percent (#27) of all 192 public and private U.S. medical schools.  The School of Medicine works locally, nationally, and globally, with research and treatment facilities in 36 countries around the world. Visit medschool.umaryland.edu

 

About the University of Maryland Medical System

The University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) is a university-based regional health care system focused on serving the health care needs of Maryland, bringing innovation, discovery and research to the care we provide and educating the state’s future physician and health care professionals through our partnership with the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the UM Schools of Nursing, Pharmacy, Social Work and Dentistry in Baltimore. As one of the largest private employers in the State, the health system’s 28,000 employees and 4,000 affiliated physicians provide primary and specialty care in more than 150 locations and at 13 hospitals. UMMS’ flagship academic campus, the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore is partnered with the University of Maryland School of Medicine and is recognized regionally and nationally for excellence and innovation in specialized care.  Our acute care and specialty rehabilitation hospitals serve urban, suburban and rural communities and are located in 13 counties across the State. For more information, visit www.umms.org.

Contact

Deborah Kotz
Senior Director of Media Relations
Office of Public Affairs & Communications
University of Maryland School of Medicine
DKotz@som.umaryland.edu

Related stories

    Wednesday, September 08, 2021

    UM School of Medicine Reaching Underserved Communities Through Grass Roots Efforts to Increase COVID-19 Vaccination Rates

    In an effort to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among children and families, and ultimately help bring the pandemic under control, the Department of Family & Community Medicine (DFCM) and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) are partnering with key community and faith-based groups in Baltimore city to reach the most vulnerable and underserved communities. This partnership will also extend across Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia.


    Wednesday, July 07, 2021

    UM School of Medicine Researchers Develop Two Rapid Tests for COVID-19 Using Innovative Techniques

    Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) have developed two rapid diagnostic tests for COVID-19 that are nearly as accurate as the gold-standard test currently used in laboratories. Unlike the gold-standard test, which extracts RNA and uses it to amplify the DNA of the virus, these new tests can detect the presence of the virus in as little as five minutes using different methods.


    Wednesday, June 09, 2021

    Global Study of Microbes in 60 Cities Finds Each Has Unique Fingerprint of Viruses and Bacteria

    Each city has its own unique microbiome, a “fingerprint” of viruses and bacteria that serves as type of city profile, according to a new study from an international consortium of researchers that included a team from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM). The international project, which sequenced and analyzed samples collected from public transit systems and hospitals in 60 cities around the world, was published today in the journal Cell.


    Tuesday, May 11, 2021

    New Study Suggests Pregnant Women Hospitalized for Covid-19 Infection Do Not Face Increased Risk of Death

    Pregnant women who develop severe COVID-19 infections that require hospitalization for pneumonia and other complications may not be more likely to die from these infections than non-pregnant women. In fact, they may have significantly lower death rates than their non-pregnant counterparts. That is the finding of a new study published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM).


    Thursday, January 21, 2021

    UM School of Medicine Hosted Media Availability for Ensuring Trust in COVID-19 Vaccine Event

    On January 22, 2021 at 2 p.m., the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) hosted Black faith-based leaders, COVID-19 research volunteers, and “America’s Doctor,” Anthony Fauci, MD. The event provided straight talk about fears, trust issues, and why we need our Black and Brown community to be a part of COVID-19 vaccine research.


    Tuesday, January 05, 2021

    Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, World-renowned Leader in Vaccine Research, Receives Moderna Vaccine

    Kathleen Neuzil, MD, MPH, FIDSA, the Myron M. Levine, MD, DTPH, Professor of Vaccinology and Director of the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s (UMSOM)’s Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health (CVD), received her first injection of the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19 on December 31. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) played an integral part in the dedicated work that led to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issuing an Emergency Use Authorization for the Moderna vaccine in December.


    Tuesday, January 05, 2021

    University of Maryland School of Medicine Begins Phase 3 Trial of Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate

    Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) will participate in a Phase 3 clinical trial of an investigational COVID-19 vaccine to protect against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus causing COVID-19 that continues to impact millions of people around the world. The clinical trial will test the safety and effectiveness of NVX-CoV2373, being developed by U.S. biotechnology company, Novavax, Inc., based in Gaithersburg, MD.


    Tuesday, December 22, 2020

    Largest Study of Its Kind Identifies Which COVID-19 Patients Face the Greatest Risk of Mortality During Hospitalization

    Hospitalized COVID-19 patients have a greater risk of dying if they are men or if they are obese or have complications from diabetes or hypertension, according to a new study conducted by University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) researchers. In a study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, the researchers evaluated nearly 67,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in 613 hospitals across the country to determine the link between certain common patient characteristics and the risk of dying from COVID-19. Their analysis found that men had a 30 percent higher risk of dying compared to women of the same age and health status. Hospitalized patients who were obese, had hypertension or poorly managed diabetes had a higher risk of dying compared to those who did not have these conditions. Those aged 20 to 39 with these conditions had the biggest difference in their risk of dying compared to their healthier peers.


    Thursday, November 19, 2020

    Promising Results Seen in Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine After Phase 1 Trial by University of Maryland School of Medicine

    Just six months after beginning a clinical development program that first enrolled here at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), Pfizer and BioNTech report interim results showing an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine had no serious safety concerns and has been found to be 95 percent effective in protecting individuals from COVID-19.


    Friday, November 13, 2020

    UM School of Medicine and School of Pharmacy Researchers Identify Promising New Compounds to Potentially Treat Novel Coronaviruses

    Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) and School of Pharmacy (UMSOP) have discovered new drug compounds to potentially treat the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The compounds disrupt the functioning of a protein complex inside human cells that the researchers discovered is critical for the replication and survival of coronaviruses. This finding could lead to the development of new broad-spectrum antiviral drugs that target viruses such as influenza, Ebola and coronaviruses, according to a new study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal.


    Monday, August 17, 2020

    UMSOM’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health Center of Excellence in Infection Control Awarded CDC Funds for COVID-19 Research

    The Department of Epidemiology and Public Health (EPH) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine was recently awarded $900,000 for COVID-19 research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The funding will be used by faculty in the Department’s Division of Genomic Epidemiology and Clinical Outcomes for research to help identify the most effective measures for COVID-19 infection control in healthcare settings.


    Tuesday, June 16, 2020

    UM School of Medicine Researchers Receive Federal Funding to Rapidly Test New Treatments for COVID-19

    Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) will be partnering on an agreement funded by the federal government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to rapidly test hundreds of drugs, approved and marketed for other conditions, to see whether any can be repurposed to prevent or treat COVID-19. The compounds will be tested in studies using state-of-the-art technologies in the laboratory of coronavirus researcher Matthew Frieman, PhD., Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. UMSOM will receive up to $3.6 million over the next year to fund this effort.


    Tuesday, June 02, 2020

    UM School of Medicine’s Institute of Human Virology Awarded Grants to Strengthen COVID-19 Response in Sub-Saharan Africa

    The Center for International Health, Education and Biosecurity (Ciheb) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Institute of Human Virology was awarded $4 million from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response activities in Botswana, Nigeria, Malawi, and Mozambique.


    Monday, June 01, 2020

    In A COVID-19 World, Another Threat to the Health of Our Children

    In the U.S., our children rarely fall ill to grave infections because they are protected by vaccines. Serious illnesses like measles, mumps, congenital rubella syndrome, chickenpox, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, rotavirus diarrhea, hepatitis (A and B), polio and bacterial meningitis are all preventable through routine childhood vaccinations.


    Thursday, May 28, 2020

    UM School of Medicine Researchers Develop Experimental Rapid COVID-19 Test Using Innovative Nanoparticle Technique

    Scientists from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) developed an experimental diagnostic test for COVID-19 that can visually detect the presence of the virus in 10 minutes. It uses a simple assay containing plasmonic gold nanoparticles to detect a color change when the virus is present. The test does not require the use of any advanced laboratory techniques, such as those commonly used to amplify DNA, for analysis. The authors published their work last week in the American Chemical Society’s nanotechnology journal ACS Nano.


    Thursday, May 21, 2020

    UM School of Medicine Begins First Innovative Trial of Experimental Stem Cell Therapy to Reduce Deaths in Sickest COVID-19 Patients

    Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) have begun testing an experimental stem cell therapy developed by Mesoblast Limited to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients with moderate to severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) who are on ventilators to help them breathe. The trial, which is being conducted at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) and additional sites across the U.S, will involve a total of 300 patients randomized to receive either the drug remestemcel-L or a placebo in addition to the recommended standard of care to manage severe COVID-19 infections. The first patient in this national trial was treated at UMMC.


    Tuesday, May 05, 2020

    UM School of Medicine is First in U.S. to Test Unique RNA Vaccine Candidate for COVID-19

    In a significant development in the global effort to discover a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) became the first in the U.S. to begin testing experimental COVID-19 vaccine candidates developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. The research, funded by Pfizer Inc., will study the safety, efficacy, and dosing of an experimental mRNA -based vaccine.


    Thursday, April 23, 2020

    UM School of Medicine Researchers Test Remdesivir as Potential Therapy for COVID-19 Patients

    Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) are testing the effectiveness of the investigational antiviral drug remdesivir in hospitalized adult patients with SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). The randomized controlled clinical trial is evaluating the safety and effectiveness of the drug, and it is part of a national study funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


    Friday, April 10, 2020

    University of Maryland School of Medicine Launches New Large Scale COVID-19 Testing Initiative

    University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, announced today the launch of a large-scale COVID-19 Testing Initiative that will significantly expand testing capability over the coming weeks, enabled by new funding of $2.5 million from the State of Maryland.


    Wednesday, October 07, 2015

    University of Maryland School of Medicine Scientists Lead New CDC Effort to Prevent Spread of Germs in Hospitals

    As part of an $11 million multi-institution effort by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) will focus on new and innovative ways to improve how hospitals and other healthcare facilities can better prevent the spread of germs, including the Ebola virus and other emerging infectious threats.


    Tuesday, June 02, 2015

    University Of Maryland School Of Medicine Professor Takes Part in White House Meeting to Combat Antibiotic Resistance

    University Of Maryland School Of Medicine Professor of Epidemiology & Public Health Anthony D. Harris, MD, MPH, who is also President for the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) participating in Antibiotic Stewardship Forum at the White House.


    Friday, April 14, 2000

    Letter from Dean Reece to FPI Patients

    The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives, from the way we shop and eat to how we connect with family and friends. While the virus itself has had strong and sometimes devastating effects on our community, the fear of its potential impact continues to influence responses and even cripple thoughts and actions.