A prospective, longitudinal evaluation of SARS-CoV-2 COVID-19 exposure, use of protective equipment and social distancing in a group of community physicians


Advocate Lutheran General Hospital


Introduction: Healthcare workers experience a significant risk of exposure to and infection from SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19. Nonetheless, little research has focused on physicians' use of personal protective equipment (PPE), their concerns about becoming infected and their social distancing maneuvers.

Methods: All staff physicians at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital were invited to participate. Their COVID-19 IgG antibody level was measured and an online questionnaire was completed. The questionnaire assessed the risk of COVID-19 exposure, PPE usage, concern for contracting COVID-19, the performance of high-risk procedures, work in high-risk settings, and social distancing practices. Testing was performed in September (T0), and December 2020 (T1) at the height of the global pandemic.

Results: A total of 481 (26.7%) of 1800 AGLH physicians were enrolled at T0 and 458 (95% of the original group) at T1. A total of 21 (4.3%) and 39 (8.5%) participants had antibodies at T0 and T1. A total of 63 (13.8%) worked in high-risk settings and 111 (24.2%) performed high-risk procedures. Participants working in high-risk settings had increased exposure to COVID-19 infected patients (OR = 4.464 CI = 2.522-8.459, p < 0.001). Participants were highly adherent to the use of PPE and social distancing practices including mask-wearing in public (86%, 82.1%), avoiding crowds (85.1%, 85.6%), six feet distancing (83.8%, 83.4%), and avoiding public transportation (78%, 83.8%). A total of 251 (55.4%) participants expressed moderate to extreme concern about becoming infected with COVID-19.

Conclusions and relevance: Among a group of community physicians, consistent PPE use and social distancing practices were common. These practices were associated with a low level of initial acquisition of COVID-19 infections and a relatively low longitudinal risk of infection.



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