Jobs at High Risk of Causing Covid-19 Outbreaks

The list of risky workplaces goes well beyond healthcare settings, new research finds

Robert Roy Britt
3 min readMay 21, 2020


Workplace spread of Covid-19, beyond healthcare settings, likely played a substantial role in early disease clusters and outbreaks in six Asian countries, according to a new study that researchers say U.S. officials and companies could learn from as they work to reopen the economy.

Job-related transmissions accounted for 47% of initial case clusters and outbreaks examined in the study, often leading to the infection of several family members. The findings are based on an analysis of 691 local transmissions, 103 of which are thought to have occurred in workplaces. The jobs and workplaces that led to the most case clusters and outbreaks:

  • Healthcare: 22%
  • Drivers and transport: 18%
  • Services and sales: 18%
  • Janitors and domestic workers: 9%
  • Public safety: 7%
  • Religious professionals: 6%
  • Construction workers: 5%

“Our study highlights several occupations that have higher potential risks and should be closely monitored as various countries, states, and areas begin to gradually re-open their economies,” says study team member Stefanos Kales, MD, a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Adding to a long list

While the plight of healthcare workers amid the pandemic is well known, other evidence suggests any job or situation that packs people tight — from meat-processing plants to homeless shelters to jails — puts people at high risk of Covid-19 outbreaks. (In jails, outbreaks are affecting inmates and workers alike).

Last month, the World Economic Forum released an analysis indicating outsized risk for bus drivers and cashiers, given their close physical proximity with others and the fact that they are essential workers. Also at elevated risk, according to the analysis, which was based on known job requirements and conditions, not on case studies: firefighters, flight attendants, K-8 teachers, correctional officers, hairdressers and childcare workers…



Robert Roy Britt

Founder/editor of Wise & Well on Medium & the Writer's Guide at & author of Make Sleep Your Superpower