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Coronavirus Disease among Workers in Food Processing, Food Manufacturing, and Agriculture Workplaces

Our take —

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collected data from state health departments on workers in US food processing, food manufacturing, and agriculture workplaces who reported laboratory-confirmed COVID-19. Overall, 742 food and agriculture workplaces in 30 states who reported data, 8,978 workers reported confirmed COVID-19 and 0.6% died. Among 5,721 workers with race and ethnicity reported, 72.8% were Hispanic or Latino, 16.8% were non-Hispanic white, 6.3% were non-Hispanic Black, and 4.1% were non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander. This study suggests a disproportionate burden among Hispanic or Latino workers, who account for 36.5% of the sampled worker population, but 72.8% of the COVID-19 cases. This may represent an underlying occupational risk among Hispanic or Latino workers.

Study design

Ecological

Study population and setting

This study describes COVID-19 among US food manufacturing and agriculture workers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collected data from state health departments on workers in US food processing, food manufacturing, and agriculture workplaces who reported laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 between March 1 and May 31, 2020. Data collected included the number and type of workplaces that reported at least one COVID-19 case during this time period; the number of workers in affected workplaces; number, demographics, and symptom status of workers with COVID-19; and the number of COVID-19–related deaths among workers. Symptom data collection varied by workplace and clinical signs and symptom severity were not requested by the CDC. All reported data were aggregated.

Summary of Main Findings

Overall, 742 food and agriculture workplaces in 30 states who reported data, 8,978 workers reported confirmed COVID-19 and 0.6% died (N=5). Among all food manufacturing and agriculture workers in 28 states reporting race and ethnicity data, 83.2% of cases occurred among racial and ethnic minority workers with 72.8% (4,164) of workers being Hispanic or Latino, 16.8% (936) non-Hispanic White, 6.3% (362) non-Hispanic Black, and 4.1% (232) non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander. Among those who reported symptom status 83.2% (4,957) workers were symptomatic and 16.8% (1,000) were asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic at the time of data collection.

Study Strengths

This study obtained data from the state health departments from 31 states.

Limitations

Among 50 states in the US, 36 (72.0%) responded to the CDC inquiry, leaving 14 states that did not respond. This may result in selection bias if states that did not respond to the inquiry differ from those who did respond. There was a high level of missing data including: 14.8% missing on sex, 13.4% missing on age, 33.6% missing on symptom status, and 36.3% missing on race and ethnicity making it difficult to draw strong conclusions. It is also not clear how representative these reports are of all the food manufacturing sites and agriculture workers in the US.

Value added

This study leverages the CDC inquiry to describe COVID-19 infection by race and ethnicity.

This review was posted on: 11 November 2020