Northwell Health Releases Data on COVID-19 Antibody Testing of its Frontline Staff

The largest integrated delivery network in New York State, Northwell Health, released on Thursday the results of its free internal COVID-19 antibody testing program detailing its efforts to keep frontline healthcare providers (HCPs) safe during treatment of patients during the pandemic.

More than 40,000 HCPs consented to testing with 13% (5,523) testing positive for antibodies. The positive sample pool comprised 11,468 (28.4% of positive tests) and 3,746 physicians (9.3%). These results roughly match testing results of the general population in New York announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a June press conference that found 12.3% of the general population had antibodies.

According to Northwell, these data, published in The Journal of Medical Association (JAMA), demonstrates that health care providers knew when they were infected, and that it could help inform a new guideline for health care worker testing.

“To help keep our health care workers who were on the COVID-19 pandemic frontlines, their patients and loved ones safe and informed, we rolled out free antibody screening across our 23-hospitals,” said Karina W. Davidson, Ph.D., professor and senior vice president at the Northwell Health’s research arm, the Feinstein Institutes. “As researchers, it’s important to us to share findings from our antibody testing, and we are pleased to know that the personal protective equipment we used was successful in protecting the vast majority of our staff.”

The data was analyzed for seroprevalence status, the occurrence of a disease as measured by SARS-CoV-2 IgG present in the blood. HCPs who sought testing provided demographic data as well as their work location and their level of suspicion they had been exposed to the virus. Of those tested, 73.7% (29,725) were women, 16% (6,444) were African American, and 14 % (5,653) were Hispanic. High levels of HCP-reported suspicion of virus exposure and prior positive diagnostic testing were better indicators of positive results.

“We are proud to have offered our 72,000 team members an opportunity to get antibody testing,” said Joe Moscola, Northwell’s chief people officer and head of human resources in a statement. “And we are even prouder to have undergone this research effort to identify best practices for keeping front line personnel in our hospitals and hospital around the world safe.”

Northwell said in a press release announcing the testing results that it treated more COVID-positive patients than any other health system in the nation, including about 17,000 hospitalized patients. When including those patients who were seen in the health system’s emergency departments, urgent care centers, and physician practices, the health network treated more than 55,000 COVID patients.

The Northwell Health Clinical Research Consortium has guided data and biospecimen-driven research studies and papers to assist in developing a greater understanding of COVID-19, organizing more than 500 clinicians, statisticians, and scientists to share their findings with other members of the research community. Over a sixteen-week period, the CRC produced more than 160 published or in press manuscripts. The Consortium also established a universal biobank that is up and running with Institutional Review Board approval to help lead in additional research, including genetic clinical studies.

“Northwell’s COVID-19 Research Consortium and Dr. Davidson are leaders in defining the clinical syndrome and risk factors for SARS-CoV-2,” said Kevin J. Tracey, M.D., president and CEO of the Feinstein Institutes. “Patients and health care workers alike find these serology results to be reassuring.”

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