According to the CDC, information that would identify COVID-19 patients as health care workers was only available for 21.5 percent of cases

By Maria Pasquini
June 01, 2020 02:34 PM
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Medical workers prepare to help coronavirus patient in busy hospital
Win McNamee/Getty

The novel coronavirus has had a devastating impact on the United States, including on the nation’s health care workers.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was updated on Sunday, shows that 66,447 health care workers have been sickened by COVID-19, and that 318 have died.

Although the numbers reflect the latest information obtained by the CDC, they are likely to rise because the data identifying COVID-19 patients as health care workers was only available for 21.5 percent of cases. Additionally, death status was only available for slightly more than 50 percent of health care personnel.

Using publicly available obituaries, National Nurses United, the largest union of nurses in the country, has actually counted more than 530 fatalities among health care workers, according to NPR. Kaiser Health News and The Guardian, which have been collaborating to document cases of health care workers who have died from COVID-19, have said that medical staff represent up to 20 percent of known cases in some states.

Although information is not available for all medical workers, the data does reflect a significant increase since the CDC first made information about health care workers publicly available.

On April 15, the agency reported that almost 9,300 health care workers in the country had been sickened with the virus, and 27 had died.

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As health care workers have mourned the death of their colleagues in recent months, many have also spoken out, claiming that they are not being given adequate personal protection equipment on the job.

According to a recent survey sent from National Nurses United to nurses in the U.S., 87 percent of respondents reported having to reuse single-use PPE with coronavirus patients. Over a quarter also reported having to reuse “so-called 'decontaminated' ” respirators.

The survey, which included responses from nearly 23,000 nurses across all 50 states, also found that 27 percent of nurses who reported having been exposed to COVID-19 had to work within 2 weeks of their exposure.

“The richest country in the world will call nurses heroes without even bothering to invest in mass producing N95 respirators and other equipment to keep nurses alive,” NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo said in a press release. “Nurses signed up to care for their patients. They did not sign up to die needlessly on the front lines of a pandemic. Our message to employers and the Trump administration is: Platitudes are empty without protections. For our sake, for the public’s sake—give us PPE.”

As of June 1, at least 104,300 people in the U.S. have died of COVID-19, and nearly 1.8 million people have tested positive for the virus, according to The New York Times.

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