Occup Med (Lond). 2021 Aug 29:kqab077. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqab077. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: The first COVID-19-positive patient was identified in Ireland on 29 February 2020 (Department of Health, Government of Ireland; https://www.gov.ie/en/pressrelease/2f75fd-statement-from-the-national-public-healthemergency-team-sat-29-feb/). Healthcare worker (HCW) quarantining became a core intervention for those identified as 'close contacts' to reduce onward transmission within the workplace to patients and colleagues. Whether a quarantining strategy could be justified at a time when there was an increased demand for the services of HCWs remained unknown.
AIMS: To establish whether quarantining staff away from a healthcare setting during a pandemic is justified.
METHODS: This retrospective study examined close contacts of COVID-19-positive index cases (both residents and HCWs) in a community hospital over a 4-week period from 1 to 28 April 2020. Close contacts were identified in accordance with national guidelines. Zones of the hospital were examined to determine the number of COVID-positive index cases and their close contacts. A cumulative result for the hospital was recorded.
RESULTS: While outcomes varied over time, per zone and per HCW category, the overall conversion rate from close contact to an index case was 30%.
CONCLUSIONS: This study vindicates the policy of quarantining close contact HCWs from their workplaces as they pose a significant threat to both their patients and fellow workers.