An alarming new study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine revealed that 91% of grocery workers who tested positive for COVID-19 worked in positions in which they worked closely with customers. To make matters worse, 75% of those workers never showed any symptoms and were potentially spreading the virus while at work.
"We were definitely surprised to see that there were that many people that were asymptomatic," said Dr. Justin Yang, an assistant professor at Boston University School of Medicine and a researcher at Harvard School of Public Health who worked on the study. "This is definitely very alarming as it means that retail grocery store employees are exposed to customers and sort of serve as a middleman for the virus-like a super spreader almost."
The study found that 20% of the workers at a grocery store in Boston tested positive, a much higher rate than the surrounding community. While 91% of the employees wore a mask while working, just 66% said they were able to practice social distancing. This has put grocery store workers under an increased amount of stress compared to people in other fields.
"If you are in an environment when you're literally in front of a customer, you can't be more than six feet, and that is really stressful for essential employees," Yang said.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International announced that as of Thursday (October 29), more than 16,300 grocery store employees have been infected or exposed to COVID-19, and 108 have died.
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