These workers have the potential to become “a significant source of transmission” for Covid-19 without even realizing it since most of the study showed no symptoms.
The analysis, published Thursday in the journal Occupations and Environment, is the first to demonstrate the significant asymptomatic infection rates, exposure risks, and psychology that grocery workers have felt in pandemic.
In the study, 20% of 104 grocery workers tested at a store in Boston in May tested positive cotton swabs.
This is a significantly higher infection rate than what has been seen in surrounding communities, the researchers said. Workers working with clients are five times more likely to be positive for Covid-19 than their colleagues in other positions.
But three out of four of those with a positive result have no symptoms.
The workers in the study tried to take precautions. Nearly all, 91% reported that they wear a mask during work and 77% report that they also wear a mask outside of work. However, only about 66% said that they can consistently practice away from society at work.
This inability to socialize has emotional as well as physical impact. Nearly one-quarter of workers in customer service reported anxiety and depression problems compared with 8% of workers who did not have contact with clients. Research shows that employees who work by bike, car or on foot are less depressed than those who use public transport.
“If you’re in an environment where you’re standing in front of a client, you can’t be taller than six feet, and that’s really stressful for the employees in need,” Yang said.
At least 108 grocery workers died and more than 16,300 were infected or exposed to Covid-19, the International Food and Trade Workers’ Union, or UFCW, said Thursday. Trade unions represent 1.3 million employees.
Yang said he hopes the study will motivate the government and store owners to provide better guidance, periodic checks and protections to grocery store employees.
There is already a national movement to designate grocery workers as first responders, which will give them priority access to personal protective and inspection equipment.
Non-union grocery workers often have little or no health care insurance, meaning they could face expensive healthcare bills if they contract with Covid-19.
Some states have increased support for grocery workers by increasing access to child care and requiring shoppers to wear masks. According to the UFCW, three states provide free inspection services to these workers and four states provide workers’ compensation, but neither state provides full first respondent status to grocery workers. and inconsistent rules across states.
“We spend a lot of time talking about the medical staff and they are important, but we are missing out on a lot of the puzzle if we don’t look at the exposure of the non-caregivers,” Yang said. health. “Their voices are really not being heard. I think it’s important to make this public so that government agencies and store owners can take this and see that they should protect their employees. more.”