Research/studies Workplace exposures

Study links workplace exposure to ‘disproportionately high’ rate of COVID-19 deaths among Latinos

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Columbus, OH — Workplace exposure to COVID-19 is a substantial factor in the “disproportionately high” rate of cases and deaths among Latinos in the United States when compared with whites, results of a recent study by researchers from Ohio State University and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee show.

Reviewing public and restricted data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as “individual-level information on prior health conditions and mortality from case data,” the researchers found that, as of Sept. 30, Latinos made up 41% of all recorded COVID-19 deaths in the country while making up 19% of the population.

Using CDC’s case surveillance data, the researchers found “little evidence” to support higher proportion of preexisting health conditions, unequal health care access/quality and multigenerational households as potential causes.

“Among the reported cases, Hispanics had fewer preexisting health conditions than whites, and there were no significant differences between working-age Hispanics and whites in the percentage of infections that resulted in death,” a report published in OSU’s Ohio State News states. “Hence, the researchers said, the case data is not supportive of preexisting comorbidities and/or lower quality health care being driving factors in the excess Hispanic mortality.”

The “greatest excess in cases” were among Latinos of working age – 30-59 years old.

“There was no evidence before this paper that really demonstrated that the excess cases were precisely in these working age groups,” study co-author Reanne Frank, professor of sociology at OSU, said in the report. “Particularly for frontline and essential workers, among whom Hispanics are overrepresented, COVID-19 is an occupational disease that spreads at work. Hispanics were on the front lines and they bore a disproportionate cost.”

Study co-author D. Phuong (Phoenix) Do, associate professor of public health policy and administration at UWM, noted that the findings are “applicable to any disease that is highly infectious,” adding, “if we know the source of the spread, then we can tackle it head on. We can’t stop the economy – we’ve learned that. There has to be a way to protect the workers and enforce protection.”

The study was published online April 1 in the journal Demographic Research.

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