Certain underlying medical conditions are associated with higher risks for severe morbidity and mortality from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Prevalence of these underlying conditions among workers differs by industry and occupation. Many essential workers, who hold jobs critical to the continued function of infrastructure operations have high potential for exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 because their jobs require close contact with patients, the public or co-workers.
The CDC analyzed data from the 2017 and 2018 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) surveys, the most recent data available. During this period, many essential workers had underlying medical conditions with high prevalence among groups of health care workers at risk for exposure to SARS-CoV-2, including home health aides and nursing home workers. Although health practitioners had low prevalence with the evaluated underlying conditions, some are at increased risk for SARS-CoV-2 exposure during the performance of medical procedures and as a consequence of sustained close contact with their patients.
The Americans with Disabilities Act addresses employment discrimination against workers with disabilities, including disabilities resulting from chronic conditions. In addition, prioritization of hazard controls and health care access is needed to minimize exposure risks, prevent and address underlying conditions and ensure access to emerging clinical prevention and treatment measures so that employees at risk for work-related exposure to SARS-CoV-2 can continue to safely perform their essential workplace functions.