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SARS-CoV-2 testing, infection and outcomes among Ontario physicians: a descriptive population-based cohort study

Liu CW, Jeyakumar N, McArthur E, Sontrop JM, Myran DT, Schwartz KL, Sood MM, Tanuseputro P, Garg AX. CMAJ Open. 2022; 10(3):E657-65. Epub 2022 Jul 19. DOI: https://doi.org/10.9778/cmajo.20210263


Background — Health care workers have a higher risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 infection than the general population. Our study reports on SARS-CoV-2 testing, infection and associated outcomes in Ontario physicians before SARS-CoV-2 vaccination became available on Dec. 14, 2020.

Methods — We conducted a descriptive, population-based cohort study of physicians in Ontario, Canada, from Jan. 25 to Dec. 31, 2020. We included physicians and postgraduate medical trainees who were residents of Ontario and registrants with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario during the study period. We examined the proportion of physicians tested for SARS-CoV-2 infection, the proportion who tested positive, and how testing and infections varied by certain physician characteristics. We reported on clinical outcomes associated with infection, including hospital admission and death.

Results — Of 41 208 physicians (mean age 47 yr; 56.1% male), 19 116 (46.4%) were tested at least once for SARS-CoV-2 infection; 358 tested positive (0.9%). No physicians died within 30 days of testing positive; however, 20/358 (5.6%) were admitted to hospital. By specialty, the proportion tested was highest among postgraduate medical trainees (2531/4125 [61.4%]), emergency physicians (281/478 [58.8%]), infectious disease physicians (33/67 [49.3%]) and family physicians (8857/18 553 [47.7%]). The proportion who tested positive was highest among internal medicine physicians (44/3499 [1.3%]), postgraduate medical trainees (47/4125 [1.1%]) and family physicians (171/18 553 [0.9%]). Of 2290 physicians who worked in long-term care, 1636 (71.4%) were tested and 25 (1.1%) tested positive.

Interpretation — During the prevaccination period of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario, nearly half of all physicians in the province were tested at least once for SARS-CoV-2 infection, 0.9% tested positive and none died. These findings may reflect the public health measures that were implemented in the province during this period.

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