Hamilton Co. zip codes with more service industry workers showing higher rates of COVID-19

Posted at 4:39 PM, Apr 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-24 22:01:04-04

HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio — County residents who work in service industries could be more at risk for contracting the new coronavirus.

WCPO cross-referenced Hamilton County health statistics with U.S. Census data and found more cases of COVID-19 in zip codes with higher concentrations of people working in service industries like hauling goods, selling groceries or driving buses. The data showed zip codes where more than 17% of its workers are in a service job had virus case rates nearly double that of others.

That's the case for nearly half the county's zip codes.

"It's nerve-wracking, but I can't pay my bills if I don't work," said 25-year-old Woodlawn resident Devin Hicks, who still relies on Cincinnati Metro to get to work through the pandemic. These days, he's taking extra precautions.

"I make sure I bag up all my clothes. I wash them every day. I wash my hands every time I step outside," he said.

Some businesses have already installed protective measures for workers, and more businesses likely will have to do so as Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine rolls out his plan to reopen the state's economy. The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 75 -- which represents area Kroger, Meijer, drug store and processing plant employees -- ordered 25,000 bottles of hand sanitizer for store employees.

The union is also pushing DeWine to recognize all service workers as first responders, in light of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, other trends have emerged from mapping census data over the county's emerging COVID-19 statistics. Neighborhoods with a high concentration of multi-unit residential developments or facilities saw higher rates of the disease, and data across the county has demonstrated coronavirus is hitting minority communities disproportionately hard.

Because the data is still emerging, though, conclusions should be drawn cautiously, according to Interact for Health founder Dr. O'Dell Owens.

"You can't manage what you don't have data on," he said. "If you're going to manage something, you have to have the data."