Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 Antibodies in First Responders and Public Safety Personnel

New York City, New York, USA, May-July 2020

Samira Sami; Lara J. Akinbami; Lyle R. Petersen; Addie Crawley; Susan L. Lukacs; Don Weiss; Rebecca A. Henseler; Nga Vuong; Lisa Mackey; Anita Patel; Lisa A. Grohskopf; Beth Maldin Morgenthau; Demetre Daskalakis; Preeti Pathela


Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2021;27(3):796-804. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


We conducted a serologic survey in public service agencies in New York City, New York, USA, during May–July 2020 to determine prevalence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection among first responders. Of 22,647 participants, 22.5% tested positive for SARS-CoV-2–specific antibodies. Seroprevalence for police and firefighters was similar to overall seroprevalence; seroprevalence was highest in correctional staff (39.2%) and emergency medical technicians (38.3%) and lowest in laboratory technicians (10.1%) and medicolegal death investigators (10.8%). Adjusted analyses demonstrated association between seropositivity and exposure to SARS-CoV-2–positive household members (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 3.52 [95% CI 3.19–3.87]), non-Hispanic Black race or ethnicity (aOR 1.50 [95% CI 1.33–1.68]), and severe obesity (aOR 1.31 [95% CI 1.05–1.65]). Consistent glove use (aOR 1.19 [95% CI 1.06–1.33]) increased likelihood of seropositivity; use of other personal protective equipment had no association. Infection control measures, including vaccination, should be prioritized for frontline workers.


Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was recognized in New York City (NYC), New York, USA, in late February 2020 and had spread throughout the community by March 2020.[1] First responders and public safety personnel have played a critical role in the COVID-19 pandemic response. Understanding the occupational risks for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection is vital for designing workplace prevention protocols to reduce transmission. Serologic surveys can identify the prevalence of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection in the population.

We conducted a serologic survey to estimate SARS-CoV-2 infection prevalence among first responders, public safety personnel, and other public service workers in NYC. The study objectives were to determine the prevalence of IgG against SARS-CoV-2 and to examine associations between characteristics and occupational exposures and previous infection among workers in emergency response and public safety settings.