Police, firefighters had job with highest COVID death rates in 2020: CDC

Protection service employees had a higher death rate than health care workers.

October 28, 2022, 12:01 AM

Police officers, firefighters and other protection service employees had the occupation with the highest death rates from COVID-19 in 2020, new federal data shows.

The report, published Friday by the National Center for Health Statistics -- a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at COVID mortality during the first year of the pandemic across 46 states and New York City by profession.

The authors only looked at Americans between ages 15 and 64 who were in the paid, civilian workforce, meaning those with unpaid jobs or who serve in the military were not included in the analysis.

Results showed that those with protective service occupations -- including police, firefighters, fire inspectors, correctional officers, private detectives, security guards and probation officers -- had the highest rate at 60.3 deaths per 100,000 workers.

According to federal data, this is twice as high as the overall workers' COVID-19 death rate in 2020, which sits at 28.6 per 100,000.

This was followed by food preparation and serving-related staff at 57.5 deaths per 100,000; construction and extraction workers at 57.3 per 100,000; transportation and material moving employees at 56 per 100,000; and farming, fishing and forestry workers at 54.8 per 100,000.

By comparison, Americans working in jobs where they were surrounded by the sickest COVID-19 patients had lower death rates in 2020, the data shows.

Health care support workers -- who help doctors and nurses care for patients, perform tests or manage equipment, among other tasks -- had a rate of 31.2 per 100,000.

Meanwhile, health care practitioners had a rate of 19.1, below the national average.

The study did not examine why some professions were more at risk of dying than others.

However, the authors noted that many workers with high COVID-19 death rates were "often required to work in person throughout stay-at-home orders in 2020."

What's more, these employees were more likely to be working in close proximity to others, both colleagues and the public, increasing their risk of infection.

A report from the National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum, which found COVID-19 to be the leading cause of death for officers in 2020 and 2021, said it was from direct exposure in the line of duty.

"It has been reported to NLEOMF that these officers have died due to direct exposure to the virus during the commission of their official duties," the report said.

Among those who died is 48-year-old Cedric Dixon, the first uniformed member of the New York Police Department to succumb to COVID-19 in March 2020.

Dixon served the city for 23 years, according to the Detectives' Endowment Association.

PHOTO: Members of the Fire Department of New York Emergency Medical Services fill out forms as they prepare to receive their coronavirus vaccine on Dec. 23, 2020, in New York.
Members of the Fire Department of New York Emergency Medical Services fill out forms as they prepare to receive their coronavirus vaccine on Dec. 23, 2020, in New York.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

"We are hurting, we are crying, and we continue to fight," then-Commissioner Dermot Shea said at the time. "He was known as the person who would do anything to help you. He is going to be so sorely missed."

COVID-19 vaccines weren't available until the end of December 2020, and they've since been shown to be protective against severe illness and death.

However, many police officer and firefighter and unions across the country have pushed back against vaccine mandates, several of whom have been fired for refusing to comply.

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