Fear of becoming infected with COVID-19 in a health care setting has led some patients to delay or avoid treatment for other medical conditions. With that in mind, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital looked back at patient records from early this spring and determined that, with the right precautions in place, the risk of acquiring COVID-19 in the hospital appears to be low.
Among more than 9,100 patients admitted between March 7 — when the first COVID-19 patient was admitted to the hospital — and May 30, researchers found one case where a patient was apparently infected by a presymptomatic spouse. This took place before visiting restrictions and universal masking policies were adopted at the hospital. Another case, discovered post-discharge, was considered to be likely hospital-acquired, although no source of transmission was found.
Brigham and Women’s approach to infection control and testing evolved during the 12 weeks of the study. While stressing the importance of early and serial testing of patients, researchers say the infection control practices outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and followed by the hospital are effective. They hope patients feel reassured that risk of nosocomial COVID-19 is minimal. The study did not include the risk of infection to health care workers, which researchers say warrants a separate study.