Racial and Ethnic Disparities Among COVID-19 Cases in Workplace Outbreaks by Industry Sector - Utah, March 6-June 5, 2020

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020 Aug 21;69(33):1133-1138. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6933e3.


Improved understanding of the overall distribution of workplace coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreaks by industry sector could help direct targeted public health action; however, this has not been described. The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) analyzed COVID-19 surveillance data to describe workplace outbreaks by industry sectors. In this report, workplaces refer to non-health care, noncongregate-living, and noneducational settings. As of June 5, 2020, UDOH reported 277 COVID-19 outbreaks, 210 (76%) of which occurred in workplaces. Approximately 12% (1,389 of 11,448) of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Utah were associated with workplace outbreaks. The 210 workplace outbreaks occurred in 15 of 20 industry sectors;* nearly one half of all workplace outbreaks occurred in three sectors: Manufacturing (43; 20%), Construction (32; 15%) and Wholesale Trade (29; 14%); 58% (806 of 1,389) of workplace outbreak-associated cases occurred in these three sectors. Although 24% of Utah's workforce in all 15 affected sectors identified as Hispanic or Latino (Hispanic) or a race other than non-Hispanic white (nonwhite) (1), 73% (970 of 1,335) of workplace outbreak-associated COVID-19 cases were in persons who identified as Hispanic or nonwhite. Systemic social inequities have resulted in the overrepresentation of Hispanic and nonwhite workers in frontline occupations where exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, might be higher (2); extra vigilance in these sectors is needed to ensure prevention and mitigation strategies are applied equitably and effectively to workers of racial and ethnic groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Health departments can adapt workplace guidance to each industry sector affected by COVID-19 to account for different production processes and working conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / ethnology*
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Industry / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / ethnology*
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / ethnology*
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Utah / epidemiology
  • Workplace
  • Young Adult