Rate of Asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 High Among Grocery Store Workers

FRIDAY, Oct. 30, 2020 — The rate of asymptomatic severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection is high among grocery store workers, and those with direct customer exposure are more likely to test positive for SARS-CoV-2, according to a study published online Oct. 29 in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Fan-Yun Lan, M.D., from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study in a single grocery retail store in Massachusetts in May 2020. Workers’ personal/occupational history and perception of COVID-19 were assessed by questionnaire.

The researchers found that 20 percent of the 104 workers tested had positive viral assays; 76 percent of the positive cases were asymptomatic. After adjustments, the odds of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 were increased for employees with direct customer exposure (odds ratio, 5.1). The prevalence of anxiety and depression was 24 and 8 percent, respectively. Those able to practice social distancing consistently at work had odds of 0.3 and 0.2 for screening positive for anxiety and depression, respectively, after adjustment for potential confounders. The likelihood of screening positive for depression was lower for workers commuting by foot, bike, or private car (odds ratio, 0.1).

“Our significant mental health finding calls for action in providing comprehensive employee assistance services to help essential workers cope with the psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to Open Health.

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