Employed adults who tested positive for Covid-19 were almost twice as likely to report regularly going to a workplace than those who tested negative, underscoring the importance of teleworking and workplace safety measures, according to research published Thursday in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
A CDC-led team looked at 314 US adults; 153 were symptomatic and had positive Covid-19 PCR tests and 161 were symptomatic people with negative test results. The participants were identified in outpatient health care facilities in July 2020.
Of the 248 participants who reported their telework status in the two weeks before illness onset, the percentage who teleworked full- or part-time was lower among those with positive coronavirus tests. In these two weeks, those who had positive Covid-19 test results were also more likely to report going exclusively to a school setting or an office.
These associations were also present when the analysis was restricted to those who did not represent critical infrastructure workers.
The findings highlight socioeconomic differences among participants who did and did not telework, the authors wrote. Non-white employees and those who earned less had less opportunity to telework.
“This investigation provides evidence of the potential health benefits of teleworking associated with the Covid-19 pandemic,” wrote the authors.
“Allowing and encouraging the option to work from home or telework, when possible, is an important consideration for reducing SARS-CoV-2 transmission,” they said.
When teleworking isn’t possible, worker safety measures should continue to be scaled up, they said.
The research does have some limitations, including that the study population may not be representative of the US population and that different types of telework were not operationalized and participants weren’t asked about specific alternative work site policies provided by their employer.
Some US states and cities have been upping restrictions such as mandatory mask-wearing in stores, offices and schools in response to the spike in cases across the country.