Outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) among operating room staff of a tertiary referral center: An epidemiologic and environmental investigation

April N. McDougal, Dana Elhassani, Mary Ann Demaet, Shirley Shores, Kenneth S. Plante, Jessica A. Plante, Richard Pyles, Scott C. Weaver, Natalie Williams-Bouyer, Brenda J. Tyler, Hollie R. Davis, Janak Patel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: Investigate an outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) among operating room staff utilizing contact tracing, mass testing for severe acute respiratory coronavirus virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and environmental sampling. Design: Outbreak investigation. Setting: University-affiliated tertiary-care referral center. Patients: Operating room staff with positive SARS-CoV-2 molecular testing. Methods: Epidemiologic and environmental investigations were conducted including contact tracing, environmental surveys, and sampling and review of the operating room schedule for staff-to-staff, staff-to-patient, and patient-to-staff SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Results: In total, 24 healthcare personnel (HCP) tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, including nurses (29%), surgical technologists (25%), and surgical residents (16%). Moreover, 19 HCP (79%) reported having used a communal area, most commonly break rooms (75%). Overall, 20 HCP (83%) reported symptomatic disease. In total, 72 environmental samples were collected from communal areas for SARS-CoV-2 genomic testing; none was positive. Furthermore, 236 surgical cases were reviewed for transmission: 213 (90%) had negative preoperative SARS-CoV-2 testing, 21 (9%) had a positive test on or before the date of surgery, and 2 (<1%) did not have a preoperative test performed. In addition, 40 patients underwent postoperative testing (mean, 13 days to postoperative testing), and 2 returned positive results. Neither of these 2 cases was linked to our outbreak. Conclusions: Complacency in infection control practices among staff during peak community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is believed to have driven staff-to-staff transmission. Prompt identification of the outbreak led to rapid interventions, ultimately allowing for uninterrupted surgical service.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-325
Number of pages7
JournalInfection control and hospital epidemiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 19 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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