Association between personal protective equipment and SARS-CoV-2 infection risk in emergency department healthcare workers

Danique Schmitz, Marieke Vos, Renate Stolmeijer, Heleen Lameijer, Titus Schonberger, Menno Gaakeer, Bas de Groot, Ties Eikendal, Luuk Wansink, Ewoud ter Avest*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)
    90 Downloads (Pure)


    Background and importance

    Healthcare personnel working in the emergency department (ED) is at risk of acquiring severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-Cov-2). So far, it is unknown if the reported variety in infection rates among healthcare personnel is related to the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) or other factors.


    The aim of this study was to investigate the association between PPE use and SARS-CoV-2 infections among ED personnel in the Netherlands.

    Design, setting and participants

    A nationwide survey, consisting of 42 questions about PPE-usage, ED layout - and workflow and SARS-CoV-2 infection rates of permanent ED staff, was sent to members of the Dutch Society of Emergency Physicians. Members were asked to fill out one survey on behalf of the ED of their hospital. The association between PPE use and the infection rate was investigated using univariable and multivariable regression analyses, adjusting for potential confounders.

    Outcome measures

    Primary outcome was the incidence of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections among permanent ED staff between 1 March and 15 May 2020.


    Surveys were sent to 64 EDs of which 45 responded (70.3%). In total, 164 ED staff workers [5.1 (3.2-7.0)%] tested positive for COVID-19 during the study period compared to 0.087% of the general population. There was significant clustering of infected ED staff in some hospitals (range: 0-23 infection). In 13 hospitals, an FFP2 (filtering facepiece particles >94% aerosol filtration) mask or equivalent and eye protection was worn for all contacts with patients with suspected or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 during the whole study period. The unadjusted staff infection rate was higher in these hospitals [7.3 (3.4-11.1) vs. 4.0 (1.9-6.1)%, absolute difference + 3.3%]. Hospital staff testing policy was identified as a potential confounder of the relation between PPE use and confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections (collinearity statistic 0.95). After adjusting for hospital testing policy, type of PPE was not associated with incidence of COVID 19 infections among ED staff (P = 0.40).


    In this cross-sectional study, the use of high-level PPE (FFP2 or equivalent and eye protection) by ED personnel during all contacts with patients with suspected or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 does not seem to be associated with a lower infection rate of ED staff compared to lower level PPE use. Attention should be paid to ED layout and social distancing to prevent cross-contamination of ED personnel.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)202-209
    Number of pages8
    JournalEuropean Journal of Emergency Medicine
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Jun-2021


    • COVID-19
    • personal protective equipment
    • surgical mask

    Cite this