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COVID-19 Scan for Aug 19, 2022

Public transportation workers see high COVID-19 incidence, death rates

A study of California public transportation workers published today in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) shows public transportation workers have higher rates of both COVID-19 incidence and mortality compared to other industries.

The study was based on confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks in California workplaces documented from Jan 1, 2020, to May 26, 2022, that were reported to the California Department of Public Health. An outbreak was defined as three or more COVID-19 cases (confirmed or probable) within 2 weeks.

According to the authors, 340 COVID-19 outbreaks, 5,641 outbreak-associated cases, and 537 COVID-19–associated deaths occurred in public transportation industries in California.

Outbreak incidence was 5.2 times higher, and mortality was 1.8 times higher in bus and urban transit industries than in all other industries. The cumulative outbreak incidence for all public transportation industries (35.3 outbreaks per 1,000 establishments) was 1.4 times higher than the average for all industries.

“The elevated outbreak incidence identified in public transportation industries suggests higher risk for SARS-CoV-2 workplace exposure among public transportation workers, and elevated mortality rates suggest increased risk for dying from COVID-19,” the authors said. “Regardless of whether exposures occur from interactions with the public, coworkers, or other sources, these observations indicate that public transportation workers represent a vulnerable group who should be prioritized for COVID-19 prevention strategies.”
Aug 19 MMWR
study

New GAO report reviews hospital struggles during COVID patient surges

US hospitals included in a new US Government Accountability Office (GAO) public health preparedness report recounted struggling to care for patients amid staffing, supply, and space shortages and a lack of information during COVID-19 surges.

The GAO, or “congressional watchdog,” is an independent, apolitical agency that tracks how tax money is spent and reports its findings to Congress and federal agencies.

In preparing the report, released this week, the GAO reviewed Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and hospital documentation and interviewed agency officials and representatives from eight hospitals and eight associated coalitions in three states chosen for their involvement in government regional preparedness and response efforts.

“All eight hospitals reported staffing challenges, such as a lack of staff to care for the increase in sick patients or staff becoming ill and unable to work, affecting hospital services,” the report stated.

The hospitals worked to adapt operations by bringing in more staff, when possible, and training staff on appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

“Health care coalitions—groups of health care and response organizations in a defined geographic location supported by HHS funding—aided hospitals,” the report said. “For example, they helped coordinate patient transfers to balance hospital loads, obtain and distribute needed medical supplies, and communicate hospital needs to their states.”

HHS is working to support medical surge preparedness for hospitals and other healthcare organizations, but the report said it is too early to know if the efforts have been effective.

“For example, HHS implemented a new medical surge exercise for coalitions in 2021 to test readiness, and plans to establish targets to measure performance,” it said. “It is also considering how to use the findings and lessons learned from its 2021 assessment of coalitions during the pandemic to improve its support of coalitions and their communities.”

HHS is also funding the creation of a regional health disaster-response system, the report said, including better data sharing on resource and capacity issues; forming specialized teams to respond to crises; and writing regional guidelines on caring for patients and boosting hospital surge capacity.
Aug 17 GAO report

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