Seafood workers are twice as likely to contract COVID-19 as workers in other food industries
The dramatic toll COVID-19 has taken on the United States is evident, but as case numbers decline and mandates are relaxed, it has become increasingly clear just how much of an impact the pandemic has had. on food service workers in industries like fishing.
A study from the University of New Hampshire examined the direct and indirect effects of the global pandemic on American seafood workers by tracking cases and outbreaks and found that seafood workers were twice more likely to contract COVID-19 than workers in other food industries.
The U.S. seafood industry has been hit pretty hard, especially workers in high-density workplaces like seafood processing plants where social distancing has been difficult. Even though COVID-19 precautions were put in place to reduce the number of workers on processing lines, this meant longer shifts and increased overall exposure. Fishing vessels had similar issues, where crews on crowded boats faced challenges wearing PPE or masks, in wet and windy conditions.”
Easton White, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, University of New Hampshire
In the study, recently published in the journal PeerJ Life & Environmentresearchers show how American seafood workers have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, highlighting the various direct and indirect effects of the virus and tracking the number of cases and outbreaks.
They reviewed news reports, scientific articles and white papers and found that most cases of COVID-19 among seafood workers were reported during the height of the pandemic, in the summer of 2020 and in the fall of 2020. early 2021, and the majority involved workers involved in seafood processors who tend to work in close proximity to each other for long hours. Cases of COVID-19 have been found in every coastal area of the United States, but Alaska, home to 60% of U.S. commercial fisheries, has seen the highest number of outbreaks.
The researchers also noticed more taxing physical and mental conditions like concerns about workplace safety, contracting COVID-19, access to medical services, vaccinations, and paid sick leave. They also considered the economic consequences of the pandemic, including changes in markets, supply and demand, in addition to revenue losses, price fluctuations, supply chain issues and supply shortages. workforce.
Researchers point to the effectiveness of the city of New Bedford, Massachusetts’ preventive COVID-19 response, which contains a massive shipping port, and compare it to pandemic practices in Dutch Harbor and the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, home to the two largest commercial fisheries. in the countryside.
New Bedford was one of the first to open both testing centers and vaccination sites specifically for seafood workers, resulting in limited cases and outbreaks, while the Alaska’s fishing industry reportedly struggled to manage the virus.
“We hope this research will lay the groundwork for future practices in the seafood sector in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, improving the whole workplace and recognizing the importance of collecting social data. and systematic economics on workers,” White said.
University of New Hampshire
White, Emergencies, et al. (2022) The Direct and Indirect Effects of a Global Pandemic on American Fishermen and Seafood Workers. PeerJ. doi.org/10.7717/peerj.13007.