Research

Retail workers at increased risk of contracting COVID-19

A new Harvard University study has found customer-facing workers, such as retail workers, were five times more likely to test positive to Covid-19 in the US than their co-workers in other roles.

The cross-sectional study was conducted in May 2020 in a single grocery retail store in Massachusetts, USA. The researchers assessed workers’ personal/occupational history and perception of COVID-19 by questionnaire.

Of the 104 workers tested, 21 (20 per cent) had positive viral assays. Seventy-six per cent positive cases were asymptomatic. Employees with direct customer exposure had an odds of 5.1 being tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 after adjustments. With regard to their mental health, the prevalence of anxiety and depression was 24 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively. After adjusting for potential confounders, those able to practice social distancing consistently at work had odds of 0.3 and 0.2 screening positive for anxiety and depression, respectively. Workers commuting by foot, bike or private cars were less likely to screen positive for depression.

Although this was a single store sample, the researchers found a considerable asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection rate among grocery workers. Employees with direct customer exposure were five times more likely to test positive for SARS-CoV-2. Those able to practice social distancing consistently at work had significantly lower risk of anxiety or depression.

Read more: Lan F, Suharlim C, Kales SN et al.Association between SARS-CoV-2 infection, exposure risk and mental health among a cohort of essential retail workers in the USA, [Full article] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Published Online First, 30 October 2020. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2020-106774

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