Race and Economy

People of color more at risk of COVID-19 spread at work

Meghan McCarty Carino Dec 3, 2020
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wagnerokasaki via Getty Images
Race and Economy

People of color more at risk of COVID-19 spread at work

Meghan McCarty Carino Dec 3, 2020
Heard on:
wagnerokasaki via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

With word Thursday that hospitalizations for COVID-19 have now surpassed 100,000, more than twice as high as the previous peak in the spring, there’s a new report on coronavirus and the workplace.

According to the Urban Institute, Black, Latinx and Native American workers are particularly vulnerable to infection on the job. Many are in industries considered essential, or work in service industries in states with fewer COVID-19 restrictions and cannot do their jobs from home. This report comes as the CDC is in the process of evaluating which groups should get vaccines before others.

More than half of Black, Latinx and Native American workers have jobs that put them at a greater risk of getting sick, said report author Lisa Dubay.

“That, likely, is part of the reason why you have much higher rates of cases for the same populations,” Dubay said.

That compares with about 40% of white workers whose jobs put them at risk. Dubay also found workers in the higher risk groups were more likely to lack health insurance, to depend on public transit and live in multigenerational housing. Those factors increase the risk of disease spread.

Dr. Helene Gayle, one of the co-chairs of a scientific committee providing guidance to the CDC, said all of these factors must be taken into account when deciding how to distribute vaccines.

“Doing it in a way that really does look at who’s at greatest risk, who’s most vulnerable, who’s most likely to develop severe disease,” Gayle said.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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