Healthcare tops all industries for the highest incidence of COVID-19 infections in the state of Wisconsin, with occupations related to the long-term care sector following suit, a new study has found. Nursing facilities lead COVID-19 incidence in healthcare industry sub-sectors and nursing assistants top incidence in occupational subgroups, researchers say.
In what investigators called one of the “most complete examinations to date of COVID-19 incidence by occupation and industry,” COVID-19 case data were collected and analyzed by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services from September 2020 to May 2021 for working adults aged 18 to 64 years.
Approximately 12% of Wisconsin workers (more than 347,000 of about 3 million) had COVID-19 during the study period. By occupation, personal care and services workers had the highest incidence of infection at 22.4 among 100 full-time peers, followed closely by healthcare practitioners (20.7 per 100).
When occupations overall were broken down by subgroup, nursing assistants and personal care aides topped the list of those most at risk of infection (28.8), followed by childcare workers (25.8) and food and beverage service workers (25.3).
When analyzed by industry, the data showed that COVID-19 incidence per 100 was highest in healthcare (18.6). And among sub-sectors within healthcare, those with highest risk were nursing facilities (30.5) and warehousing (28.5).
The results reveal the usefulness of standardized occupational data collection in public health, investigators wrote in the study, published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Work-related exposure plays a key role in SARS-CoV-2 transmission, “yet few studies have measured the risk of COVID-19 across occupations and industries,” reported Jonathan Meiman, MD, of the University of Wisconsin and colleagues.
“Workers at higher risk of SARS-CoV-2 exposure may benefit from targeted workplace COVID-19 vaccination and mitigation efforts,” the authors concluded.