03 Nov Study Finds High Rate of Asymptomatic COVID-19 Infection Among Retail Workers
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Fan-Yun Lan, MD, MS
PhD candidate in Population Health Sciences | Environmental Health
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences & T.H. Chan School of Public Health
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Existing evidence has indicated that essential workers are heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as they are not able to benefit from mitigation policies. Their occupational exposures increase their own risk to SARS-CoV-2 infection, and increase the risk of secondary transmissions to their colleagues, families and communities. Research, however, has largely focused on healthcare workers with relatively limited literature investigating non-healthcare essential workers.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: In our present study, we found an alarming infection rate of 20% positive SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR assay result among a cohort of grocery/retail market workers in Massachusetts, and the majority (76%) of them were asymptomatic at the time of testing. Furthermore, employees with direct customer exposure were five times more likely to test positive for SARS-CoV-2. We also screened their mental health using validated questionnaires, finding the inability to practice social distancing consistently at work was a significant risk factor for anxiety and depression. At the same time, commuting to work by public transportation/shared rides was significantly associated with a depressive state.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: In this cohort of grocery retail essential workers, 20% had a positive SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR assay result and the majority (76%) of them were asymptomatic at time of testing. Employees with direct customer exposure were five times more likely to have a positive SARS-CoV-2 assay result. The ability to social distance consistently at work was a significant protective factor for anxiety and depression. Commuting to work by public transportation/shared rides and having an exposure to a confirmed case within the past 14 days were positively associated with depression.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: Future research is warranted to investigate the risk factors for SARS-CoV-2 infection and mental health adversity among other essential workers, such as public transportation workers, public safety workers, construction laborers, and so on.
We have no competing interest to disclose.
Fan-Yun Lan, Christian Suharlim, Stefanos N Kales, Justin Yang. Association between SARS-CoV-2 infection, exposure risk and mental health among a cohort of essential retail workers in the USA. Occupational & Environmental Medicine, Oct. 30, 2020; DOI: 10.1136/oemed-2020-106774
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