A study done online in JAMA Network Open finds that construction workers may be at high risk of Covid-19 infection. The study was done by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and the Santa Fe Institute. It looked at whether there is any association with increased community transmission of Covid-19 as well as disproportionate fatalities in US construction workers. It examined hospitalization data finding that construction workers had a nearly five times the risk of hospitalization compared with other worker categories. The publishers concluded that this does not mean construction work must be stopped all together, but that workplaces should take seriously the necessary safety measures and paid sick leave policies to protect construction workers who build the cities we live in.
As the study notes in its introduction, early in the pandemic policymakers across the US were divided in their views on the essential nature of construction work. Boston, New York, and San Francisco severely restricted many projects. Other cities and states deemed commercial and home construction essential. Most of the nation’s 7.3 million construction workers remained employed throughout April and May of 2020, representing 4.5% of the labor workforce, ranging from 1.8% in the District of Columbia to 10.5% in Wyoming. The authors note that because construction workers operate in close physical proximity to each other, construction sites have a higher than average risk of Covid-19 transmission. And because Latino populations are highly representative among construction workers, they have higher rates of exposure too, which are exacerbated by high-risk comorbidities and lack of access to quality health care. According to the authors, the combination of these risks is likely partially responsible for the higher rates of COVID-19 infection and fatality in Latino communities.
As for the study’s methodology, it used a data driven model of COVID-19 transmission… to estimate the association between construction work and the virus’s reproduction number. It used anonymized hospitalization data provided by tracking COVID-19 patients in various states of the disease, including susceptible, exposed, pre-symptomatic, asymptomatic, symptomatic, hospitalized, and recovered.
What the study ultimately concluded was that construction workers are five times more likely than people with other professions to experience hospitalization as a result of COVID-19 exposure. According to the authors, the risk of infection is magnified by close contact between workers, exposure to hazardous materials on construction sites, as well as other demographic factors.
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