Mask-wearing and use of personal protective equipment is essential public practice these days — especially for first responders, according to a new study from researchers at The MetroHealth System.
MetroHealth said in a news release issued Monday, Oct. 12, that the researchers — Dr. Yasir Tarabichi and Adam Perzynski. — "conducted COVID-19 surveillance over a seven-week period with 300 first responders from Cleveland EMS and fire services." Most first responders reported they had adequate PPE supplies and training.
The researchers' main findings: about 70% of first responders had contact with patients who had COVID-19, but only around 5% subsequently tested positive for the virus. Half of those who tested positive reported having no symptoms, and just one needed to seek health care for symptoms. (MetroHealth noted that for consistent results, first responders were tested twice, with both nasal swabs and bloodwork three weeks apart to look for new infections.)
Results of the peer-reviewed study are published online here, in the journal of Pre-Hospital Emergency Care.
MetroHealth said in the release that the study "supports evidence that masks and PPE work in reducing the risk of contracting the virus. At times, first responders were in enclosed spaces with COVID-19 patients and still didn't have an increased risk when they wore appropriate protective supplies."
Tarabichi noted that Cleveland first responders "place themselves at great personal risk for the patients they serve" and said the study "highlights the importance of ensuring adequate PPE supplies and training for these essential workers."
Perzynski added, "They also face the same day-to-day risks at home as the rest of us, and precautions like wearing a mask, avoiding large gatherings and washing your hands apply to everyone."