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Pandemic Led To 30% Increase In Deaths For Workers In Certain High-Risk Industries, Study Shows

Rich Pedroncelli
AP Photo
In this Nov. 19, 2020, file photo, Fabian Rodriguez cleans a table in an outdoor tented dining area of Tequila Museo Mayahuel restaurant, in Sacramento, Calif. Sales at restaurants and bars fell in October for the first time in six months.

The pandemic accounted for a 30% increase in the deaths of essential workers in 10 industries in California during the first 10 months, according to a new study by U.C. Merced’s Community and Labor Center.

The U.C. study found that overall deaths among Californians aged 18-65 increased by 25% in 2020. Workers accounted for 87% of those additional deaths, or more than 14,000 deceased.

Dr. Edward Flores, who helped direct the study, said what the pandemic exposed were the existing inequalities in the workplace.

“There’s a need for better awareness for the rights that workers have, of their ability to take sick leave, to file a complaint in regards to health and safety conditions,” said Flores.

Most affected were warehouse workers, followed by agricultural workers, those in restaurants and food services, and grocery stores.

Among the 10 industries with the highest increases were nursing care, landscaping, and building services such as janitorial and security.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation in September and October to take more steps to protect essential workers, including expanded sick days, testing, and quarantine directives.

“We have to do more to support some 626,000 crop workers that are in this state and live here year-round,” Newsom said.

The study also notes that a higher rate of immigrant workers was affected and many high-risk workers earned lower wages.