The 2022 Dirty Dozen report issued by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health includes a special section on the toll that COVID-19 has taken on workers. The authors report that “we are still unable to answer a basic question: Exactly how many people in the U.S. have become ill and died from workplace exposure to COVID-19?”
The report cites data from J. Scott Davidson, CEO of Indianapolis-based One America Insurance, on actual deaths—not estimates or projections—based on claims submitted for life insurance policies. Davidson’s data indicate that:
- “[D]eath rates are up 40% over what they were pre-pandemic” for people aged 18-64, the primary working-age population.
- “The deaths that are being reported as COVID deaths greatly understate the actual death losses among working-age people from the pandemic.”
- “It may not all be COVID on their death certificates, but deaths are up just huge, huge numbers… What we’re seeing is that people get COVID, they kind of recover and then they die from some sort of disease mechanism that was impacted by the fact that they got COVID in the first place.”
The report also notes that:
The COVID-19 pandemic also continues to reveal deep inequities based on race, class and income. Although infection rates do not vary greatly among different population groups, Indigenous, Pacific Island, Black, and Latinx people have much higher death rates than White and Asian Americans, indicating significant disparities in access to health care and other resources that can mean the difference between life and death.
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Despite the enormous and deadly impact of COVID-19 on workers and people of color, both government and the private sector have responded in fits and starts, failing to provide and enforce protections that can reduce and save lives.