COVID-19 hit public transit workers disproportionately harder than other workers, according to a new study by California health officials.
The study, led by the California Department of Health and Human Services and released Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provides an overview of the toll the pandemic has taken on transportation workers and raises new questions about the role of interventions in public health, including masks, in these settings.
The study found that workers in the public transport and aviation industries were far more likely to be affected by COVID-19 outbreaks in their workplaces than workers in general.
And compared to workers across all industries, bus and rail workers were twice as likely to die from COVID-19.
“Public transportation workers are at higher risk of COVID-19 outbreaks and workplace mortality than the general working population in California and should be prioritized for COVID-19 prevention strategies, including immunizations and enhanced workplace protection,” it said in the report.
The study identified 340 confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 in California’s public transit industry over a 29-month period, from the onset of the pandemic through May. Scientists identified 5,641 coronavirus cases linked to these outbreaks and 537 COVID-19 deaths.
During that period, there were 24.7 COVID-19 outbreaks per 1,000 jobs across all California industries combined, the study found. But fares for public transport sites were much worse.
During the same period, there were 87.7 outbreaks per 1,000 jobs in aviation and a whopping 129.1 outbreaks per 1,000 jobs in the bus and mass transit industries.
In other words, outbreaks of COVID-19 were 3½ times more likely in the airline industry and five times more likely in bus and transit construction sites than in California’s industry as a whole, according to the study’s findings.
Cumulative COVID-19 death rates have been much higher in some public transport industries. In particular workers for rail transport; bus transport and local transport; and transportation support services such as maintenance, airport cargo, and airport terminal service workers died at twice the rate of deaths in the California industry as a whole during the period examined in the study.
For all industries in the state, scientists found 114.4 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 workers. In comparison, there were 211.5 deaths per 100,000 workers in the bus and mass transit industries; 237.4 deaths per 100,000 workers in transport support services; and 241.8 deaths per 100,000 workers in the rail industry.
However, aviation workers were less likely to die from COVID-19 than California’s industry as a whole. There were 91.3 COVID-19 deaths for every 100,000 aviation workers in the state.
The study used outbreaks reported to local health officials in California and deaths from the state’s COVID-19 case registry, which were matched to death certificate data that contains information about a deceased’s occupation.
Of the 340 identified COVID-19 outbreaks, the vast majority – 57% – occurred in bus and mass transit workplaces.
However, the largest proportion of cases occurred in the aviation industry. Of the 5,641 coronavirus cases linked to outbreaks in the transit industry, 43% occurred in aviation.
And the largest proportion of deaths – just over 50% – occurred among workers in the transport support services sector.
In terms of outbreaks, the highest monthly number was reported in December during the first Omicron wave.
The highest monthly number of deaths in the transport industry occurred during the first autumn and winter wave of the pandemic, when there were more than 80 per month. The next highest number was during the peak of the delta wave last September when it was nearly 50.
During the peak of the first Omicron wave in January, there were fewer than 30 monthly deaths.
In comparison, the number of eruptions in the first full month of the Omicron rise peaked in the fall and winter, at nearly 80. This total was far larger than the previous monthly high when there were more than 40 outbreaks in December 2020.
The authors noted that outbreak data collected in 2021 may be more complete than 2020 numbers, due in part to a California public health regulation requiring employers to report clusters of three or more coronavirus-positive workplace cases to local public health officials Report. In 2020, outbreak reporting requirements varied depending on local regulations.
“Whether exposure is through interactions with the public, colleagues, or other sources, these observations suggest that public transport workers represent a vulnerable group that should be prioritized for COVID-19 prevention strategies,” the authors wrote . “Such strategies can include targeted immunization efforts, access to antiviral treatments, public health communications, and enhanced workplace protections, such as: B. Improved ventilation and use of well-fitting masks or respirators (e.g. ”
Masks are no longer required on public transit in most parts of California. However, LA County still requires face coverings on public transit and indoor transportation hubs, including Los Angeles International Airport and Hollywood Burbank Airport.
The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit system also requires mask-wearing on its 131-mile, 50-station commuter rail network.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-08-18/covid-19-hit-california-transit-air-industry-hard-study-shows COVID-19 hit California transit, air industry hard, study shows