The CDC Just Warned Who's Hit Hardest by Outbreaks at Work

Hispanic and non-white people in Utah were most affected by coronavirus outbreaks in the workplace, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report on Monday.

The report said that between March and June, 12% of Utah's coronavirus cases were related to the workplace, mostly in the manufacturing, construction and wholesale industries. Seventy-three percent of the illnesses were in Hispanic or other non-white people, even though they comprise only 24% of the employees in those categories.

Part of the reason is that nonwhite workers may be in "front-line" positions that have fewer options to work remotely and less flexible schedules than nonwhite employees, the report said. Because those workers are less able to stay home when they're sick, they experience more workplace exposure and facilitate additional spread.

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The CDC said this pattern is similar to outbreaks found in meatpacking plants around the country, which were hotspots of infection early in the pandemic.

"Extra vigilance" needed

The agency urged "extra vigilance" to "ensure prevention and mitigation strategies are applied equitably and effectively to workers of racial and ethnic groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19," the report said. "Health departments can adapt workplace guidance to each industry sector affected by COVID-19 to account for different production processes and working conditions."

Death rates higher nationwide

Previous studies have indicated that minorities are harder hit by the coronavirus across the country. In July, USA Today reported that non-white people have died at disproportionately higher rates than white people in almost every state.

This is true even in young people, who tend to have less serious cases of the illness. A paper published by Harvard researchers in June found that young Black, Latino and Indigenous people had five to nine times the death rates from coronavirus compared to whites.

"Black, Latino and Indigenous people are subject to both historical and ongoing discrimination that is rooted in both institutions and culture," said Dr. Mary Bassett, co-author of the study and director of Harvard's Center for Health and Human Rights. "This is reflected in exposure to disease-causing environments and poorer access to services, with the result that these groups face shorter, sicker lives."

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.