First responder COVID-19 infection rate higher than health care workers, UArizona study finds
PHOENIX – A recent University of Arizona Health Sciences study found first responders had twice the rate of COVID-19 infections when compared with health care personnel.
Researchers from UArizona Health Sciences, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Arizona Department of Health Services and Marshfield Laboratories worked together to collect and analyze the weekly COVID-19 test results of 1,766 health care personnel, first responders and other essential workers from July of 2020 to mid-March of 2021.
Results found first responders had a COVID-19 infection rate of 13.2% compared to 6.7% of health care personnel. The infection rate of other essential workers was similar to that of health care workers.
“I think what this information shows is that we need to do more to help protect our first responders, their families and the communities they serve,” Dr. Kate Ellingson, infectious disease epidemiologist at UArizona, told KTAR News 92.3 FM.
Ellingson, who helped lead the research study, believes society needs to better understand the risk factors driving infection among first responders and to tailor mitigation strategies accordingly to better protect them.
That includes better personal protective equipment and vaccination against COVID-19.
“Our first responders often find themselves in situations with very specific risk factors that may not be accounted for in general recommendations,” Ellingson said.
“For example, firefighters work long shifts where they eat, exercise, and sleep in the same building – that’s a very specific and different risk factor.”