According to a recent study, grocery store workers are at a 20-fold higher risk of testing positive for COVID-19 than the public.

Researchers discovered that a Boston based grocery store, has an infection rate of 20 percent compared to the rate of up to 1.3 percent in the local community.

Most of the employees, over three-quarters, showed no symptoms like fever, coughing or shortness of breath.

Additionally, the workers who directly dealt with customers, for example cashiers, were five times more inclined to be covid-19 positive compared to their colleges in other positions.

The researchers, from Harvard University TH Chan School of Public Health, concluded that the results of their research reveals that these main workers could be super-spreaders of the infection without realizing it.

In May, a grocery store based in Boston had one in five workers covid-19 positive, implying a 20% infection rate, which is 15 to 22 times greater than the public population rate of 0.9% to 1.3% at that time.

About 75% did not have any symptoms and workers who dealt with customers were five times more likely to test positive.

Prior studies have examined the risk of infection among those in so-called ‘essential’ jobs, but these have mainly concentrated on frontline workers.

‘We saw a lot of research publications on exposure specific on essential workers…however they’re all on healthcare workers,’ Dr Justin Yang, a visiting professor in the department of environmental health at Harvard TH Chan and an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, told

‘No one has really looked at the other essential workers so it gave me more of a motivation to look at other essential workers that were working during the pandemic.’

The research was conducted and published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, by observing the data from 104 employees of one Boston based grocery store.

Every worker was tested for COVID-19 in May of this year as part of a compulsory testing program authorized by the city after one employee tested positive.

They were also queried about their working habits and function at the store; their daily commutes; and what preventive criteria they took at work.

Results indicated that one in five workers were positive for the virus, reflecting an infection rate of 20 percent.

This is considerably higher than the preponderance among local community at the time: which was between 0.9 percent and 1.3 percent.

This indicated the rate among grocery store employees was 15 to 22 times higher than that of the general population.

Seventy-five percent of those who tested positive were asymptomatic and 91 percent who were positive had a customer facing role compared with 59 percent of those testing negative.

‘When there was one person that was positive, I kind of expected that we were gonna see more,’ Yang said.

‘However, the end result of seeing 20 percent of them were positive and, out of those 20 percent, nearly 80 percent were not exhibiting any symptoms, that was a really surprising result and that was pretty concerning in terms of the amount of asymptomatic carriers and spreaders still working…when they were actively shedding virus.’

Those who held supervisory roles were six times more inclined to be positive than their colleagues.

For future research, the team wishes to observe all types of workers to deduce if working on site heighten one’s risk of contracting COVID-19.

‘If we don’t routine testing, a lot of people are sort of missed…and especially when they have customer-facing positions, they are super-spreaders without even knowing that they’re spreading the disease,’ he said.


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