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Illness-Related Work Absence in Mid-April Was Highest on Record

Educational Objective
To understand how COVID-19 is affecting the health of the US’s workforce
1 Credit CME

Data on diagnosed cases and deaths have been used to delineate the course of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Information from population employment surveys could shed additional light on the pandemic's effect on the health and behavior of the nation’s workforce.

We analyzed the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly survey of approximately 115 000 persons that collects information on employment.1 We classified as “out sick” respondents who reported having a job but being absent the previous week due to their “own illness/injury/medical problems.” We compared trends over the first 4 months of 2020 relative to 2019 using multivariable linear regressions adjusted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, year, month, and a month×year interaction term. We assessed the demographic characteristics of out-sick jobholders, and compared out-sick rates in “high–” vs “nonhigh–COVID-19” states,2 and states with and without laws mandating paid sick leave.3 We also assessed the number of persons out sick each month since January 1976.

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CME Disclosure Statement: Unless noted, all individuals in control of content reported no relevant financial relationships. If applicable, all relevant financial relationships have been mitigated.

Article Information

Corresponding Author: Adam W. Gaffney, MD, Cambridge Health Alliance, 1493 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02138 (agaffney@challiance.org).

Accepted for Publication: May 27, 2020.

Published Online: July 27, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.2926

Author Contributions: Drs Gaffney and Woolhandler had full access to all of the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Concept and design: All authors.

Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: All authors.

Drafting of the manuscript: Gaffney, Woolhandler.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: All authors.

Statistical analysis: Gaffney, Woolhandler.

Supervision: Himmelstein.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Drs Gaffney, Himmelstein, and Woolhandler serve as leaders of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), a nonprofit organization that favors coverage expansion through a single payer program; however, none of them receive any compensation from that group, although some of Dr Gaffney’s travel on behalf of the organization is reimbursed by it. No other disclosures are reported.

References
1.
Flood  S , King  M , Rodgers  R , Ruggles  JR . Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, Current Population Survey: Version 7.0 [dataset] [Internet]. Minneapolis, MN: IPUMS; 2020. . Accessed May 16, 2020.
2.
Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. COVID-19 projections. https://covid19.healthdata.org/united-states-of-america. Accessed May 18, 2020.
3.
National Partnership for Woman & Families. Paid Sick Days - State and District Statutes: Updated April 2020. Available from: https://www.nationalpartnership.org/our-work/resources/economic-justice/paid-sick-days/paid-sick-days-statutes.pdf.Accessed May 18, 2020.
4.
Davern  M , Jones  A  Jr , Lepkowski  J , Davidson  G , Blewett  LA .  Estimating regression standard errors with data from the Current Population Survey’s public use file.   Inquiry. 2007;44(2):211-224. doi:10.5034/inquiryjrnl_44.2.211 PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
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