More than 62,000 front-line doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers have been infected with COVID-19, the Center for Disease Control reported on Tuesday. At least 291 healthcare workers have died from coronavirus complications.
The previous CDC analysis, released April 17, reported that there were only 9,888 documented cases of coronavirus among healthcare workers. At that time, only 27 healthcare workers had died of coronavirus.
The April report found that the median age of infected workers was 42. Nearly three-quarters of sick healthcare workers were women, which reflects the overall gender distribution of doctors and nurses. A disproportionate number of healthcare professionals of color had contracted COVID-19. Black healthcare workers made up approximately 5 percent of those surveyed by the CDC who self-identified their race and 21 percent of coronavirus cases. The more recent report did not provide these statistics.
The real number of healthcare workers infected with coronavirus may be much higher than either of these figures. The CDC based its conclusion on a survey of 1.3 million Americans, but only a quarter among them reported their profession. Mortality data were also only available for just over half of healthcare workers, meaning that the death toll could be much higher.
Christopher Friese, director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Population Health and a nurse currently seeing patients, said that he is alarmed by the number of health care professionals getting sick. He also expressed concern about the fact that official records with the names of people who have died are so hard to find.
“It’s an insult that we can’t even honor or respect these colleagues in a respectful way,” Friese told the Guardian. “We cannot even grieve properly. We can’t even honor them because we may not even know who we’ve lost.”
The reasons behind the spike in sick health care workers remain unclear. Whether doctors and workers contracted the coronavirus while working with sick patients or from other community members is difficult to track on a national scale.
As of May 27, more than 5.6 million COVID-19 cases and 351,000 deaths have been documented worldwide, according to data compiled by the CDC. Many believe the actual numbers are much higher, due to testing shortages, unreported cases, and fears that some governments are hiding the seriousness of outbreaks in their nations.
Sources: CDC 5/27/2020; NBC News 5/27/2020; ABC News 5/27/2020