COVID-19 hit California transit, airline industry hard, study finds

COVID-19 blow public transport employees disproportionately harder than other workers, according to a new study by California health officials.

The study, led by the California Department of Public Health and released Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provides insight into the impact of the pandemic on transportation workers, raising new questions about the role of public health interventions, including masksin these settings.

Employees in the transit and air industries were much more likely to have COVID-19 outbreaks in their workplaces than workers in general, the study found.

And compared to employees in all sectors, bus workers and rail services were twice as likely to die from COVID-19.

“Workers in the public transportation industries are at greater risk of workplace COVID-19 outbreaks and fatalities than the general population of workers in California and must be prioritized for COVID-19 prevention strategies, including vaccination and enhanced protective measures in the workplace,” the report said.

The study identified 340 confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 in California’s public transportation industries over a 29-month period from the onset of the pandemic through May. Scientists have identified 5,641 coronavirus cases associated with these outbreaks and 537 deaths from COVID-19.

During this period, there were 24.7 COVID-19 outbreaks per 1,000 job sites in all California industries combined, according to the study. But fares specific to transit sites were much worse.

There were 87.7 outbreaks per 1,000 jobsites in air transportation during the same period, and 129.1 outbreaks per 1,000 jobsites in the bus services and urban transit industry.

In other words, COVID-19 outbreaks were 3.5 times more likely in the airline industry and five times more likely at bus service and city transit sites compared to all industries overall. Californians, according to the findings of the study.

Cumulative death rates from COVID-19 were much higher in some public transportation industries. Specifically, rail transport workers; bus service and urban transport; and transportation support services such as maintenance, airport cargo, and airport terminal service workers were twice as likely to die during the period examined in the study compared to all industries. Californians.

For all industries in the state, scientists found 114.4 Covid-19 deaths per 100,000 workers. By comparison, there were 211.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers in the bus and urban transit industry; 237.4 deaths per 100,000 workers in transportation support services; and 241.8 deaths per 100,000 workers in the railway industry.

However, airline workers were less likely to die from COVID-19 than other California industries. There have been 91.3 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 airline workers in the state.

The study used outbreaks reported to local California health departments and deaths from state COVID-19 case registry that have been matched to death certificate data, which includes information about the occupation of the deceased.

Of the 340 identified COVID-19 outbreaks, the vast majority – 57% – have occurred in bus and transit workplaces.

But the largest share of cases have occurred in the airline industry. Of the 5,641 coronavirus cases associated with outbreaks in the transit industry, 43% have occurred in air travel.

And the largest share of fatalities – just over 50% – occurred among workers in the transportation support services sector.

In terms of epidemics, the highest monthly number was reported in December, during the first wave Omicron.

The highest monthly death toll in the transportation industry occurred at the start of the pandemic autumn and winter wave, when there were more than 80 per month. The second highest count was during the peak of the Delta wave last September, when there were nearly 50.

At the height of the first Omicron wave in January, there were fewer than 30 monthly deaths.

By comparison, the number of outbreaks was highest during the first full month of Omicron’s fall and winter surge, when there were nearly 80. This sum was well above the peak previous monthly, 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 figures, in part due to a California public health order requiring employers to report clusters of three coronavirus-positive cases on the job. workplace to local health services. In 2020, outbreak reporting requirements varied depending on local rules.

“Regardless of whether the exposures result from interactions with the public, co-workers, or other sources, these observations indicate that public transport workers represent a vulnerable group that should be prioritized for COVID-19 prevention strategies.” , wrote the authors. “These strategies can include targeted vaccination efforts, access to antiviral treatment, public health messaging, and enhanced workplace protective measures, such as improved ventilation and the use of tight fitting masks or respirators (eg, N95) by workers and members of the public. »

Most areas in California no longer require face coverings on public transportation. However, LA County continues to demand face coverings on public transportation and domestic transportation hubs, including Los Angeles International Airport and Hollywood Burbank Airport.

The San Francisco The Bay Area Rapid Transit system also requires masks to be worn on its 131-mile, 50-station commuter rail system.

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