SAFETY

Federal study shows coronavirus outbreaks at work hit people of color harder than others in Utah

Aug 18, 2020, 12:44 PM
Utah Department of health, other important immunizations decline due to covid...
(PHOTO: KSL NewsRadio file)
(PHOTO: KSL NewsRadio file)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A new federal study finds people of color in Utah are hit harder by COVID-19 outbreaks in the workplace than others. 

Troubling data in federal study

A scientific paper, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows that 73% of infected workers have been Latinos or other minorities–despite the fact they account for only 24% of employees in the impacted areas.

The data, which was collected by the Utah Department of Health and local county health departments, looked at COVID-19 outbreaks in Utah between March 6 and June 5. It notes that Latinos make up a large portion of the workforce at the JBS Beef Plant in Hyrum, where an outbreak in late May sickened 385 workers.

According to the study, nearly half of the workplace outbreaks occurred in just three sectors: manufacturing (20% of the total), construction (15%) and wholesale trade (14%).

Going forward

In conclusion, the study suggests the workers of color are victims of “systemic social inequities.” They claim these individuals need extra efforts from their employers and health officials to protect them.

“Systemic social inequities have resulted in the overrepresentation of Hispanic and nonwhite workers in frontline occupations” that are more likely to be exposed to the coronavirus, the paper suggests.

“Extra vigilance in the sector is needed to ensure prevention and mitigation strategies are applied equitably and effectively to workers of racial and ethnic groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19.”

Simply put, their findings indicate that minority workers have less opportunity to escape high-risk work situations during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Hispanic and nonwhite workers have less flexible work schedules and fewer telework options compared with white and non-Hispanic workers,” the paper indicates. “Lack of job flexibility (i.e., ability to vary when to start and end work), lack of telework options, and unpaid or punitive sick leave policies might prevent workers from staying home and seeking care when ill, resulting in more workplace exposures, delayed treatment, and more severe COVID-19 outcomes.”

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Federal study shows coronavirus outbreaks at work hit people of color harder than others in Utah