Giving Compass' Take:
- According to a new study, construction workers face higher risks of hospitalization from COVID-19 compared to individuals who hold other jobs.
- Why do construction workers face these risks? How can communities help support frontline workers during the pandemic?
- Read more about the disconnect for essential workes.
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Analyzing data from mid-March to mid-August on hospitalizations in Austin, Texas, the researchers found that construction workers there were five times as likely to be hospitalized with the coronavirus as workers in other occupations. The finding closely matches forecasts the team, the University of Texas at Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, made in April.
The current study is, to the authors’ knowledge, the first to compare COVID-19 hospitalizations of construction workers to non-construction workers. An earlier study by the CDC reported that the construction sector was ranked number two in frequency of workplace outbreaks in Utah.
According to the researchers, the higher vulnerability for construction workers probably stems from the continuation of construction work throughout the pandemic, even during stay-home orders and other community-wide mitigation measures. The nature of the work exacerbated the risks due to close contact with others, practices by employers, and demographic factors.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean we need to stop construction work,” says Lauren Ancel Meyers, a professor of integrative biology and director of the consortium. “It means we need to go to great lengths to ensure the health and safety of workers when they do go to work.”
Encouraging basic precautions such as mask wearing and physical distancing on the work site would help, the authors note, as would having governments or employers offer workers paid sick leave and other incentives to stay home when they have a known exposure or have mild symptoms, to help mitigate risk.
In addition, regular work site-based surveillance COVID-19 testing (with effective tracing and isolation of detected cases) can help prevent spread.
Read the full article about construction workers at risk for COVID-19 by Marc Airhart at Futurity.