Data on COVID-19 cases by town show that the post-holidays surge is here. Daily new cases for all age groups have also spiked following Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Hospitalizations have remained relatively flat since Thanksgiving, but there is no reason to believe that infection rates will return to summertime levels. In fact, Connecticut appears to be caught in a cycle of community transmission that may not slow down for months.
As reported in a previous analysis of cases by age group, Working-age people, those between 20 and 39 years old, have been testing positive at higher rates than any other age category since September. By the beginning of October, daily new cases began to surge and case rates have remained high for the last few months.
One possible explanation for the spike in community transmission is that working-age people are contracting the virus at work and then bringing it into households with both school-age children and middle-age adults. Then, the children carry coronavirus back to schools, which are the ideal place for it to spread to people in all age groups.
Data from the Census Current Population Survey (IPUMS-CPS) shows that there are distinct differences in where people in each age category work. Working-age individuals are much more likely to be employed in industries that require frequent in-person interaction with the general public than the middle- and retirement-age groups. For example, about half of people employed in food service-related jobs in Connecticut fit into the working-age category. Similar employment patterns can be seen in retail, hospitality, and entertainment. These service-related jobs put working-age people at higher risk than other groups of contracting COVID-19 at work.
This chart allows you to explore the age distribution of industries in Connecticut.
Jobs in industries like manufacturing and construction can’t be done remotely, but they don’t require interaction with the general public. Employees are also already used to more rigid safety standards than other industries. Even though these industries employ people from a broader range of age groups, people in these sectors are at lower risk than others in service-related jobs.
Educational Services and Health Care and Social Assistance both require frequent engagement with the general public and employ people from both high- and low-risk age categories. These industries include schools, hospitals and nursing facilities, and nonprofits. Healthcare and direct-service nonprofits are generally considered to be at higher risk for exposure, but because children are thought to transmit COVID-19 at lower rates, the classroom is considered relatively safe.
In reality, schools are the only place where people in all four age groups interact in-person on a regular basis. Aside from students, faculty and staff are about 39% middle age, 37% working age, and 21% retirement age. Even with hybrid teaching, there are enough exposure vectors that intersect in the classroom to keep transmission rates high in Connecticut.
Once COVID-19 makes it out of school or the workplace, it has many ways to spread within the home. Data from the Census American Community Survey (IPUMS USA) show that household composition by age group in Connecticut varies enough to facilitate transmission within families. 15.6% of households have some combination of both school-age and working-age people. Over 30% of Connecticut households have at least one school-age member and about 25% of households have at least one working-age member. Connecticut’s average household size is 2.6, so 15.6% may not seem like a lot, but it represents about 1.4 million people.
School-age children may be less vulnerable to the virus, but they have dual exposure at school and at home. Working Age people generally have higher exposure at work and among peers.
Both groups, however, are more likely to be asymptomatic and transmit the Coronavirus unknowingly. People in these age groups don’t have much choice whether to attend work or school, but they’re also probably at the center of Connecticut’s current surge in cases.
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