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Cleveland first responders at lower risk of contracting COVID-19 with PPE use, MetroHealth study finds

The seven-week study surveilled 300 first responders from Cleveland EMS and fire services.

CLEVELAND — A new study out from The MetroHealth System shows that masks and personal protective equipment appears to be highly effective at lowering the risk of contracting COVID-19 in first responders from Cleveland.

Over a seven-week period, MetroHealth researchers Yasir Tarabichi, MD, and Adam Perzynski, Ph.D. surveilled 300 Cleveland EMS medics and fire services. 

Results from the study showed that while about 70% of first responders had contact with patients who had COVID-19, only around 5% tested positive for the virus, according to MetroHealth. Of those that tested positive, half reported being asymptomatic and only one needed to seek healthcare for their symptoms.

To ensure consistency in results, first responders were tested twice, with both nasal swabs and bloodwork, three weeks apart.

"Among the more remarkable findings of our study was that despite the challenges of day-to-day work caring for, at times, very sick COVID-19 patients, first responders demonstrated a low infection rate. This suggests that our first responders are well-trained professionals committed to keeping their patients and coworkers safe," said Dr. Perzynski.

According to MetroHealth physicians, this study supports evidence that masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) work in reducing the risk of contracting the virus, including when in enclosed spaces with COVID-19 patients.

"Cleveland first responders place themselves at great personal risk for the patients they serve and this study highlights the importance of ensuring adequate PPE supplies and training for these essential workers," said Dr. Tarabichi. 

Full results of the peer-reviewed study are published online in the journal of Pre-Hospital Emergency Care.