Workers 4-5 times less safe outside their workplace than inside it: report


 Employees are far safer inside their workplace than outside due to all the coronavirus safety measures put in place by companies, according to a new report published by the University of Chicago. 

In fact, workers are approximately 4-5 times less safe outside their office, according to University of Chicago economics professor Casey Mulligan. 

A month after the pandemic started, employers implemented safety protocols in order to bring their workforce back, including screenings, masks, and creating better airflow, according to the report. 

Data from the report shows that as a result of the extra safety precautions, infection rates inside both work and schools decreased compared to infections from the outside. 

The report analyzed infection rates on an hourly basis within schools that allowed for in-person instruction in North Carolina and Wisconsin.

What it found was that "on an hourly basis, the schools studied were more than four times as safe as the places frequented by students and staff when not in school," according to the report. 

Of the 77,446 students, plus thousands of staff, within 11 North Carolina school districts, 773 acquired COVID-19 from the community from Aug. 15 through Oct. 23, according to the report. Comparatively, only 32 infections arose from inside school walls during that same time frame. 

A separate study involved 5,500 students and staff in Wood County, Wisconsin, who went in-person for part of the week. From Aug. 31 to Nov. 29, seven cases were acquired in school "compared to 184 outside." 

The report also looked into infections at Duke Health, the second-largest private employer in North Carolina with approximately 22,312 full-time employees. 

Between March 15 and April 14, 2020, there were 1.3 community-acquired infections for every thousand health care workers at Duke Health compared to 1.2 acquired at work.  

Over the next few weeks, though, "work-acquired infections almost stopped while community-acquired cases continued as did prevalence in the broader community." 

According to the report, by April 14, "Duke Health was more than three times as safe." 

As a result, the data begins to "cast doubt on the hypothesis that regulations or subsidies that require or encourage workers to spend more time outside their place of work or school help slow the spread of COVID-19." 

Rather, according to the report, "it raises the question of whether such actions might hasten the spread by keeping people away from prevention measures that large organizations use." 

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that outdoor activities are safer. 

"If you want to spend time with people who don’t live with you, outdoors is the safer choice! You are less likely to be exposed to COVID-19 during outdoor activities" even, in some cases, without the use of masks, according to the CDC website. 

"Indoor spaces with less ventilation where it might be harder to keep people apart are riskier," the CDC said.

The agency lists a number of steps that employers should follow in order to try and create a healthy and safe environment, including ensuring that the ventilation systems operate properly and that outdoor air is circulating as much as possible, either by opening windows and doors or using fans.

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