Left Menu
Development News Edition

High rate of symptomless COVID-19 infection among grocery store workers, finds study

Grocery store employees are likely to be at heightened risk of COVID-19 infection, with those in customer-facing roles 5 times as likely to test positive as their colleagues in other positions, suggests the first study of its kind.

ANI | Washington DC | Updated: 30-10-2020 07:39 IST | Created: 30-10-2020 07:39 IST
High rate of symptomless COVID-19 infection among grocery store workers, finds study
Representative image. Image Credit: ANI

Grocery store employees are likely to be at heightened risk of COVID-19 infection, with those in customer-facing roles 5 times as likely to test positive as their colleagues in other positions, suggests the first study of its kind. The findings of the study were published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

What's more, among those testing positive, three out of four had no symptoms, suggesting these key workers could be an important reservoir of infection, say the researchers. Published research focusing on essential/key workers has largely focused on healthcare workers. To try and plug this knowledge gap and find out how COVID-19 has affected the health and wellbeing of other key workers, the researchers studied 104 employees of one grocery store in Boston, Massachusetts.

Each employee was tested for SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19 infection, in May this year as part of a mandatory testing policy across Boston. But before doing so, they completed detailed questionnaires on their lifestyle; medical history; employment history; working patterns and role at the store; commuting to and from work; and the protective measures they were able to take against infection at work.

They were also asked to provide information on COVID-19, including any symptoms and exposure to anyone with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 over the past 14 days. Information on mental health was gleaned from two validated questionnaires for depression and anxiety: PHQ-9 and GAD-7. One in five (21 out of 104) workers tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, indicating a prevalence of 20% at that point in time. This was significantly higher than the prevalence of the infection in the local community at the time: 0.9-1.3%.

Three out of four of those testing positive (76%) had no symptoms. And of those testing positive, most (91%) had a customer-facing role compared with 59% of those testing negative. Workers in customer-facing roles were five times more likely to test positive than their colleagues in other types of role, after accounting for potentially influential factors, such as the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 where they lived. Those in supervisory roles were six times more likely to do so.

Ninety-nine employees filled in the mental health questionnaires: 24 workers reported at least mild anxiety. Only half (46%) of them said they were able to practice social distancing consistently at work, whereas most (76%) of those who weren't anxious were able to do so. Eight employees were deemed to be mildly depressed from their questionnaire answers. They were less likely to practice social distancing consistently at work and more likely to travel to and from work on public transport or shared rides compared with those who weren't depressed.

Those able to commute on foot, by bike or in their own car were 90% less likely to report depressive symptoms. This is a small observational study of workers in one store in one city at one point in time, which relied on subjective reports, and as such, can't establish cause, caution the researchers.

Nevertheless, they say: "This is the first study to demonstrate the significant asymptomatic infection rate, exposure risks, and associated psychological distress of grocery retail essential workers during the pandemic." And they point out: "Once essential workers are infected with SARS-CoV-2, they may become a significant transmission source for the community they serve."

They believe their findings support: "the policy recommendations that employers and government officials should take actions on implementing preventive strategies and administrative arrangements, such as methods to reduce interpersonal contact, repeat and routine SARS-CoV-2 employee testing, to ensure the health and safety of essential workers." And they add: "Our significant mental health finding calls for action in providing comprehensive employee assistance services to help essential workers cope with the psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic."(ANI)


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

Turbulence surrounding tobacco control in Ghana

... ...

Smart healthcare: IoT redefining the way healthcare is delivered

As the world is embracing the new wave of digitalization triggered by the pandemic and the arrival of 5G, the adoption of IoT devices will further boom. With adoption set to soar, IoT security issues and other challenges cant be ignored any...

Refugee compassion and response: Ideas to mitigate disasters now and in their future

Their homeland becomes a forbidden territory for them and more likely than not, their journey to foreign soil is no less traumatizing, not to say deadly. It is crucial to help refugees live a life of dignity and purpose....

Inadequate water infrastructure causes a tidal wave of coronavirus in rural Alaska

... ...

Videos

Latest News

UK borrowing to soar to almost 400 bln pounds to pay for COVID hit -Sunak

Britain will borrow almost 400 billion pounds in the current financial year to pay for the massive coronavirus hit to its economy, finance minister Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday, taking the budget deficit to its highest since World War Two....

Jaishankar calls on Bahrain's Deputy Prime Minister, extends condolences on his father's demise

During his two-day visit to Bahrain, External Affairs Minister EAM Dr S Jaishankar on Wednesday extended his condolences on the demise of former Bahrain Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa. Called on DPM HH Shaikh Ali bin Khalifa A...

MH17 judges reject request to investigate alternative crash scenarios

Judges hearing the case against four defendants in the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on Wednesday rejected a defence request for more time to investigate alternative scenarios into the crash in eastern Ukraine.MH17 was flyin...

PDP chief slams arrest of party's youth wing leader

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday claimed that the charges against her partys youth wing leader Waheed Parra, who was arrested by the NIA in a terror case, were baseless. Taking to Twitter, the PDP chief said it was not a coincidenc...

Give Feedback