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Importance: Given the overwhelming worldwide rate of infection and the disappointing pace of vaccination, addressing reinfection is critical. Understanding reinfection, including protection longevity after natural infection, will allow us to better know the prospect of herd immunity, which hinges on the assumption that natural infection generates sufficient, protective immunity. The primary aim of this paper is to provide data on SARS-CoV-2 reinfection over a 10-month period. Objective: The primary objective of this study is to establish the incidence of reinfection of COVID-19 among healthcare employees who experienced a prior COVID-19 infection. Design: This observational cohort study followed a convenience sample of 2,625 participants who experienced a COVID-19 infection for subsequent COVID-19 infection. Setting: Healthcare employees were recruited across a large Midwestern healthcare system. Positive PCR test results were administered and recorded by the system-affiliated lab serving Illinois and Wisconsin. Participants: Adult healthcare system employees who enrolled in a research study focused on SARS-CoV-2 antibodies (N = 16,357) and had at least one positive PCR test result between March 1, 2020 and January 10, 2021 were included (N = 2,625). Exposure: Positive PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 Main Outcome(s) and Measure(s): The primary outcome is incidence of COVID-19 reinfection, defined by current CDC guidelines (i.e. subsequent COVID-19 infection ≥ 90 days from prior infection). COVID-19 recurrence, defined as subsequent COVID-19 infection after prior infection irrespective of time, is also described. Results: Of 2,625 participants who experienced at least one COVID-19 infection during the 10-month study period, 156 (5.94%) experienced reinfection and 540 (20.57%) experienced recurrence after prior infection. Median days were 126.50 (105.50-171.00) to reinfection and 31.50 (10.00-72.00) to recurrence. Incidence rate of COVID-19 reinfection was 0.35 cases per 1,000 person-days, with participants working in COVID-clinical and clinical units experiencing 3.77 and 3.57 times, respectively, greater risk of reinfection relative to those working in non-clinical units. Incidence rate of COVID-19 recurrence was 1.47 cases per 1,000 person-days. Conclusions and Relevance: This study supports the consensus that COVID-19 reinfection, defined as subsequent infection ≥ 90 days after prior infection, is rare, even among a sample of healthcare workers with frequent exposure.

Competing Interest Statement

The authors have declared no competing interest.

Funding Statement

This study was funded internally by the healthcare system. The healthcare system had no influence over the study design, conduct, results, or dissemination of findings. The authors received no direct financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Author Declarations

I confirm all relevant ethical guidelines have been followed, and any necessary IRB and/or ethics committee approvals have been obtained.


The details of the IRB/oversight body that provided approval or exemption for the research described are given below:

This research study obtained approval by the Advocate Aurora Health Institutional Review Board (#20-168E).

All necessary patient/participant consent has been obtained and the appropriate institutional forms have been archived.


I understand that all clinical trials and any other prospective interventional studies must be registered with an ICMJE-approved registry, such as I confirm that any such study reported in the manuscript has been registered and the trial registration ID is provided (note: if posting a prospective study registered retrospectively, please provide a statement in the trial ID field explaining why the study was not registered in advance).


I have followed all appropriate research reporting guidelines and uploaded the relevant EQUATOR Network research reporting checklist(s) and other pertinent material as supplementary files, if applicable.


Paper in collection COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 preprints from medRxiv and bioRxiv

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