Health care workers more likely to get Covid-19 outside of work

Several months ago, I posted the following on the “Oregon Covid-19 Data” page (Since deactivated as I am no longer updating that page).

Intuitively, there was fear for health care workers contracting Covid-19 “on the job”. My state calls out what percent of health care workers got Covid-19 in their daily web update-but never says whether they contracted Covid-19 on the job or elsewhere. I noticed health care workers were contracting Covid-19 at a lower rate than one would expect when looking at their numbers in the workforce.

Today, my assessment has been confirmed by a study from Minnesota which finds their risk of catching Covid-19 is more likely to come from home and community settings.

First, my original comments:

Oregon Health Care Workers Slightly Less Likely To Get Covid-19 than General Population – Possibly

According to the  Kaiser Family Foundation, 11% of Oregon’s work force works in health care  (they note this figure does not include self employed workers who are in the health care fields and data is for 2018). The data appears to come from this  Oregon government document.

According to the  August 4th Oregon Update,  10% of those diagnosed with Covid-19 are health care workers. (Update: this has fallen further since then.)

This may mean that health care workers are slightly less likely to contract Covid-19 than the general population.

However, because many confirmed cases have “unknown” employment, that could also skew the result.

Additionally, this could be lower because (1) health care workers are trained in infection control protocols, (2) they use PPE, (3) they use PPE mostly correctly, and (4) workers in some fields, notably food processing plants, seem to be a much higher risk than the general population, skewing the disease towards the general public. That means the percent attributed to health care workers is smaller because certain groups are getting hit much harder.

Based on the limitations of the data, we cannot draw a definitive conclusion. However, it appears that health care workers are probably not contracting Covid-19 at a much higher rate, which some expected early on because of their close, extended close contact with patients (both those with the disease and those who may be asymptomatic).

And now this – update October 29, 2020:

Minnesota study: Home, community more risky for health care providers than patients with COVID-19.

Public health officials say the study demonstrates the effectiveness of medical-grade personal protective gear. 

My next observation is we will eventually find that community use of face masks has done little to reduce the spread of Covid-19 (hence, why we see exploding cases months after high compliance face masks mandates).

My expectation is a study will eventually conclude (as we already know) that N95/KN95 type respirator masks, when used properly are effective.

Certified surgical face masks, when used properly, have benefits (but perhaps not as much as people think), when used properly.

Cloth masks have benefit IF they are made of appropriate materials and designs, and IF they are used properly. I saw a news photo two days ago where the majority of the adults in the photo were not wearing their face mask properly. This is why community use of face masks likely plays little role in reducing the spread of Covid-19 – compared to say, social distancing. The CDC has said they have no data to quantify the effectiveness of a cloth mask versus social distancing – in other words, they don’t know and are guessing that it adds value.

As noted in another post, I believe we are focusing the wearing of masks in low risk situations – and ignoring the highest risk situation. 40+/-% of all cases are contracted from close, extended contact with a family member in a home, and 20+/-% from close, extended social contacts, frequently inside a home. That’s up to 2 in 3 cases – in situations where mask wearing is non-existent.

No one wears a face mask inside a home. If we seriously wanted to reduce cases – and if face masks work – then public health should be mandating wearing of face masks inside homes 24 x 7. Obviously, there is now way to enforce this nor would many people likely comply. And thus, we miss wearing a face mask in the most common, high risk scenario were a face mask could be effective and have an impact. I suspect this explains why the “wear a face mask” (in mostly low risk scenarios) is having little impact.