The findings were published online Nov. 9 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The risks to essential workers in all disciplines who could not work from home were clear from the beginning of the pandemic, said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
“But the risk of transmission to household members living with essential workers became equally important when considering potential for disease progression along with community transmission,” Glatter said.
Since scientists know that asymptomatic transmission of the virus is a major way it spreads, steps like self-isolation and self-quarantining in separate rooms in the home, along with wearing masks, might reduce the risk of transmission, he noted.
Another option includes having essential workers self-quarantine or self-isolate in hotel rooms, which could significantly reduce the risk to household members, Glatter added.
“Household members who are obese, smoke, [are] older than 65, have diabetes, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, asthma or COPD are at much higher risk for adverse outcomes — including death — if they contract COVID-19,” Glatter said.
It’s vital to factor in the increased risk to household members “when assessing overall potential for community transmission and disease progression of COVID-19 among essential workers who can’t work from home,” he stressed.
Selden hopes these findings will help policymakers when that are making decisions about the economy and public health.
“To the extent that we can reduce the prevalence of COVID-19 in our communities through a combination of common sense, vigorous public health and, eventually, a vaccine, then we can reduce the extent to which policymakers have to choose between the economy and keeping the population safe,” Selden said.
For more on COVID-19, head to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCES: Thomas Selden, PhD, Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends, U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, Md.; Robert Glatter, MD, emergency medicine physician, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; JAMA Internal Medicine, Nov. 9, 2020, online