Association Between COVID-19 Exposure and Self-reported Compliance With Public Health Guidelines

This study by Nelson, et al. (2021) at an institution of higher education in Colorado evaluated the association between self-reported protective behaviors and how common SARS-CoV-2 infection was among essential in-person employees during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

As the authors explain, "Detailed analysis of infection rates paired with behavioral and employee-reported risk factors is vital to understanding how transmission of SARS-CoV-2 infection may be exacerbated or mitigated in the workplace. Institutions of higher education are heterogeneous work units that supported continued in-person employment during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing a test site for occupational health evaluation."

This cross-sectional study was conducted from July 13 to Sept. 2, 2020, at an institution of higher education in Fort Collins, Colo. Employees 18 years or older without symptoms of COVID-19 who identified as essential in-person workers during the first 6 months of the pandemic were included. Participants completed a survey, and blood and nasal swab samples were collected to assess active SARS-CoV-2 infection via quantitative reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) and past infection by serologic testing.

Among 508 participants (305 [60.0%] women, 451 [88.8%] non-Hispanic White individuals; mean [SD] age, 41.1 [12.5] years), there were no qRT-PCR positive test results, and only 2 participants (0.4%) had seroreactive IgG antibodies. Handwashing and mask wearing were reported frequently both at work (480 [94.7%] and 496 [97.8%] participants, respectively) and outside work (465 [91.5%] and 481 [94.7%] participants, respectively). Social distancing was reported less frequently at work (403 [79.5%]) than outside work (465 [91.5%]) (P < .001). Participants were more highly motivated to avoid exposures because of concern about spreading the infection to others (419 [83.0%]) than for personal protection (319 [63.2%]) (P < .001).

The researchers conclude that when employees reported compliance with public health practices both at and outside work, they were able to operate safely in their work environment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reference: Nelson TL, et al. Association Between COVID-19 Exposure and Self-reported Compliance With Public Health Guidelines Among Essential Employees at an Institution of Higher Education in the US. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(7):e2116543. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.16543