40% of workers in the United States were classified as essential workers, and 51% of households had at least 1 essential worker. Nearly half of essential workers lived in a household with moderate risk, while over 1 in 10 essential workers lived in higher-risk households.
McCormack, G. et al. Economic vulnerability of households with essential workers. JAMA (2020). https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2020.11366
18 June 2020
With the recognition of COVID-19 as a global pandemic by the WHO in March 2020, closures of businesses, stores, restaurants, and other venues were often mandated to facilitate physical distancing to reduce the disease’s spread. However, several businesses have remained in operation to provide vital societal services, such as hospitals and grocery stores, and have been deemed “essential services”. One consequence of these services remaining open is that employees have had to continue to come to work and interact with the general public, thereby increasing risk of exposure to themselves and those around them. This study studied the proportion of essential workers in the United States, as well as the economic vulnerability of households with essential service workers living in them. Economic vulnerability is based on meeting two of the three following criteria: household income below $40,000; at least one person living in the home who is uninsured; and at least one person living in the home over 65 years of age. In all, essential workers comprised 40% of the sample studied, and 51% of houses included at least one essential worker. 48% of essential workers lived in a household with at least one risk and 13% of essential workers lived in high-risk households. These results suggest that a substantial proportion of the U.S. population is comprised of essential workers. Even in moderate-risk households (that is, 1 of 3 risks identified), these workers may themselves spread COVID-19 to at-risk household members, given their higher rates of exposure.
Summary by: Jennifer Gutberg