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Universal SARS-CoV-2 testing at hospital admission has been proposed to prevent nosocomial transmission.


To investigate SARS-CoV-2 positivity in patients tested with low clinical COVID-19 suspicion at hospital admission.


We characterised a retrospective cohort of patients admitted to Karolinska University Hospital tested for SARS-CoV-2 by PCR from March to September 2020, supplemented with an in-depth chart review (16 March–12 April). We compared positivity rates in patients with and without clinical COVID-19 suspicion with Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient. We used multivariable logistic regression to identify factors associated with test positivity.


From March to September 2020, 66.9% (24,245/36,249) admitted patient episodes were tested; of those, 61.2% (14,830/24,245) showed no clinical COVID-19 suspicion, and the positivity rate was 3.2% (469/14,830). There was a strong correlation of SARS-CoV-2 positivity in patients with low vs high COVID-19 suspicion (rho = 0.92; p < 0.001).

From 16 March to 12 April, the positivity rate was 3.9% (58/1,482) in individuals with low COVID-19 suspicion, and 3.1% (35/1,114) in asymptomatic patients. Rates were higher in women (5.0%; 45/893) vs men (2.0%; 12/589; p = 0.003), but not significantly different if pregnant women were excluded (3.7% (21/566) vs 2.2% (12/589); p = 0.09). Factors associated with SARS-CoV-2 positivity were testing of pregnant women before delivery (odds ratio (OR): 2.6; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.3–5.4) and isolated symptoms in adults (OR: 3.3; 95% CI: 1.8–6.3).


This study shows a relatively high SARS-CoV-2 positivity rate in patients with low COVID-19 suspicion upon hospital admission. Universal SARS-CoV-2 testing of pregnant women before delivery should be considered.


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