Research Spotlight: COVID-19’s effect on frontline workers

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Nathan Fiala, an associate professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics led the study with Rui Sun and Corey Goodrich. Photo courtesy of UConn Naturally.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut are looking into COVID-19’s disproportionate effect on low-income and minority frontline workers.  

The team was led by Nathan Fiala, an associate professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics. The project obtained funding through the United States Department of Agriculture, and examines deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in Connecticut from March through August 2020.  

Rui Sun, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Economics assisted in working on this study. Photo courtesy of ruisun.org.

Rui Sun, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Economics, and Corey Goodrich, an Agricultural and Resource Economics research assistant, also assisted in working on this study. The researchers found an unexpected group of deaths in the study: younger people. As it turns out, this group was not dying because of underlying conditions or susceptibility to the virus due to age. Most of those who died were frontline workers who were forced into jobs with little protection from the virus.  

These frontline workers were likely more at risk earlier in the pandemic, when there were fewer precautions put into place to protect their safety.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black Americans are 2.9 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than white Americans are across the U.S. Nationally, Hispanic or Latino Americans are 3.2 times more likely and Native Americans are 3.7 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than white Americans.  

“We put many low-income, marginalized groups in a lot of danger, especially in the beginning of the pandemic,” Fiala said in an interview with the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources Newsroom.  

Fiala’s research generally focuses on the effects of poverty in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to studying deaths caused by the pandemic, he is also looking at economic development issues across Connecticut and New England, as well as how COVID-19 has affected the supply chains in New England. 

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