Shopping with Protective Mask

GROCERY WORKERS FACE ELEVATED RISK OF CONTRACTING COVID

  • The grocery industry(1) accounts for 3.8% of total employment in Washington, but 5.8% (153) of all identified outbreaks reported in non-healthcare* workplace settings, as of February 6, 2021.(2)

  • The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices includes grocery workers in the category of non-health care frontline essential workers that is “likely at highest risk for work-related exposure to SARS-CoV-2 because their work-related duties must be performed on site and involve being in close proximity (<6 feet) to the public or to coworkers.”(3)

  • A recent peer-reviewed study led by a Harvard epidemiologist and published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine showed a 20% infection rate among grocery workers, with a majority of those asymptomatic.

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THE DANGER IS REAL

  • Workers with direct customer exposure were 5 times more likely to test positive. The study also showed higher levels of depression and anxiety among those grocery workers least able to practice social distancing at work.(4)

  • “One in five (21 out of 104) workers tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, indicating a prevalence of 20% at that point in time. This was significantly higher than the prevalence of the infection in the local community at the time: 0.9-1.3%.”(5)

  • The New York Times COVID tracker, developed with public health experts at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health currently characterizes indoor activities in Pierce County as a “high risk” activity.

  • The Times recommends keeping grocery shopping trips “as short and infrequent as possible.”(6)

SOURCES

  1. Establishments with NAICS codes for Supermarkets and other grocery stores, Department stores, and Warehouse clubs and supercenters

  2. Washington State Department of Health Office of Communicable Disease Epidemiology, “COVID-19 Outbreaks in Grocery Settings.” Available upon request; Washington State Employment Security Department, “Covered employment classified by industry, Second quarter 2020 preliminary,” Accessed March 5, 2021, https://esdorchardstorage.blob.core.windows.net/esdwa/Default/ESDWAGOV/labor-market-info/Libraries/Industry-reports/QCEW/2020-2%20PUB%20preliminary.xlsx                      

  3. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Evidence Table for COVID-19 Vaccines Allocation in Phases 1b and 1c of the Vaccination Program,” Accessed March 5, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/acip-recs/vacc-specific/covid-19/evidence-table-phase-1b-1c.html

  4. 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 Occupational and Environmental Medicine Published Online First: 30 October 2020. https://oem.bmj.com/content/early/2020/10/11/oemed-2020-106774

  5. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201029191116.htm

  6. The New York Times, “Tracking Coronavirus in Pierce County, Wash.” Accessed March 5, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/us/pierce-washington-covid-cases.html