Study: Healthcare pros less infected than general pop

A+ for PPE: Personal protective equipment is doing a remarkable job keeping healthcare workers healthy, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Here’s a bright note for National Nurses Week, or any week that places dedicated healthcare providers in the crosshairs of a deadly global pandemic: The personal protective equipment is working.

Measures taken to safeguard frontline healthcare workers – including mass production and the energetic, often grassroots distribution of protective masks, face-shields, gowns and gloves – are having a measurable effect, according to statistics released Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

In fact, Albany’s antibody-testing survey of healthcare workers – a study of roughly 27,000 downstate healthcare workers – found the coronavirus infection rate among healthcare workers is roughly the same as, and even slightly lower than, the general population’s infection rate.

That healthcare workers who spend their days in COVID-19’s face should be statistically equal to, even slightly healthier than, a general population that is, generally, in lockdown, is extraordinary – and extremely spinnable.

Distance learning: Also a big fan of social distancing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (center) praised PPE Thursday for helping to keep frontline healthcare workers safe.

Quarantine protestors will surely see it as ammunition in their quest to liberate states from the shackles of science: If we’re just as sick as the doctors and nurses, or they’re just as sick as us, why are we stuck in here?

But Cuomo, in his daily coronavirus briefing Thursday, saw it very differently, calling the remarkable rates “amazingly good news” and “one of the few positives that I’ve heard in a long time.”

“So that makes two points to me,” the governor said. “Number one, our healthcare workers must be protected. They must have the PPE. There was a mad scramble this time to get the PPE … that can never happen again.

“It also shows everybody how important the masks and the gloves and the sanitizers are,” Cuomo added. “They work. If they’re working for frontline workers, they’re going to work for people in their day-to-day lives.”

All told, the state survey checked workers at 25 healthcare facilities across Long Island, Westchester County and New York City for the bloodborne antibodies left behind in recovered (or asymptomatic) coronavirus carriers – believed to be key to developing a COVID-19 vaccine.

The testing revealed that 11.1 percent of Long Island healthcare workers tested positive for the COVID-19 antibodies, compared to 11.4 percent of the general Island population.

Even wider spreads, each favoring healthcare workers, were found in Westchester and NYC, according to the governor’s office. In the city, 12.1 percent of healthcare workers tested positive for the antibodies, compared to 19.9 percent of the general population; to the north, just 6.8 percent of countywide healthcare workers tested positive, compared to 13.8 percent of Westchester’s general population.

It’s a virtual certainty that quarantine protestors will load up on the notion that the people forced to endure these endless lockdowns are actually sicker than phlegm-soaked doctors and nurses.

But without the precious PPE, according to Cuomo, the story would be very different.

“You know, it’s not that the frontline workers get anything especially more sophisticated than the masks that people wear, the N95 masks,” the governor said Thursday. “Those masks work.”