Grocery Workers at Risk for COVID Without Symptoms

By Cara Murez

HealthDay reporter

FRIDAY, October 30, 2020 (HealthDay News) – Grocery store workers are probably at higher risk of infection with the novel coronavirus, according to a new study.

Not only that, but since a high percentage of them show no symptoms when infected, they could become sources of future spread, the researchers said.

For the study, scientists at the TH Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University studied the test results of workers at a single grocery store in Boston. One in five workers (20%) tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, and three-quarters of those who carried the virus had no symptoms.

These essential workers could be a major reservoir of infection, investigators said. “Once essential workers are infected with SARS-CoV-2, they can become an important source of transmission for the community they serve,” the researchers explained.

The percentage of people infected was much higher than the prevalence of the virus in the local community, which was 0.9% to 1.3% at the time. Employees at the grocery store who had jobs that connected with customers were five times more likely to test positive, according to the results.

The study was published on October 29 in the journal Occupational and environmental medicine. Workers at the grocery store were tested for coronavirus in May as part of a mandatory testing policy in Boston.

Workers also answered questions about symptoms and exposures, and completed detailed questionnaires on their lifestyle, medical and work history, work habits, role at the store, commuting and work. protective measures they may have taken against infection at work. . Most also responded to questionnaires on anxiety and depression.

The study was small and specific to one location, the researchers warned.

“This is the first study to demonstrate the significant asymptomatic infection rate, exposure risks and associated psychological distress of essential retail grocery workers during the pandemic,” said Justin Yang and colleagues. in a press release.

About one in four of the 99 employees who answered the mental health questions reported feeling at least mild anxiety. About half of these respondents were unable to routinely practice social distancing at work. Those who were able to practice social distancing tended to be less anxious, according to the report.

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