Police, fire and other first responders twice as likely to get COVID-19, study says
TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Firefighters, police officers, correctional officers and other first responders are twice as likely to get COVID-19 as healthcare professionals and other essential workers, according to a study done by the University of Arizona Health Sciences department
“We were surprised to see such elevated rates in first responders compared to health care workers because many of the occupational exposures are similar,” said Kate Ellingson, an epidemiologist researcher on the AZ HEROES study.
The AZ Heroes study looks at essential workers, their rates of COVID-19 infection and vaccine effectiveness. Their newly published data shows while nurses and doctors may be taking direct care of COVID-19 patients: first responders outside the hospital were more likely to get the virus, 13.2% for first responders versus 6.7% for healthcare workers.
“We found that the rates of infection in first responders were about double that of healthcare workers,” said Ellingson.
These numbers are pre-vaccine, so during our big surge in Arizona. The reasons for the increase could be layered. Hospital staff are trained in infectious diseases, proper PPE and work in highly sanitized places. Where other forms of first responders work with the public in open areas, closed quarters and in direct contact with many kinds of people. Though, the exact reason isn’t known. Other essential workers like child care, grocery store and essential infrastructure workers also have about half the rate of first responders in contracting COVID-19.
“These rates are elevated across each category for correctional officers, fire service, law enforcement and non-fire EMS,” said Ellingson.
More than ¾ of the study is fully vaccinated, but their data, including participants outside of Arizona, show first responders have the lowest rate of vaccination behind essential worker and healthcare workers.
“It is important to protect the first responders, not only for their own safety, but to extend that safety to their families, to their communities they serve, etc,” said Ellingson.
As of last week, 300 City of Tucson employees did not have a COVID-19 vaccine.
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