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Coronavirus kills far more US health workers than official data suggests

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
New York City nurses and supporters participate in a vigil expressing solidarity with healthcare workers nationwide demanding they receive the necessary Personal Protective Equipment to conduct their jobs safely, April 15, 2020. David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

US health officials say the true number of healthcare workers contracted COVID-19 or lost their lives is certainly far higher than the latest data.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that nearly 9,300 health professionals tested positive for the new coronavirus and 27 died of the respiratory disease.

CDC Officials said the count was drawn from just 16 percent of the nation’s total coronavirus cases, so the true numbers of healthcare infections and deaths are certainly far higher.

The CDC said data provided by states most closely tracking the occupations of people with the virus suggest that healthcare workers account for about 11% of all coronavirus infections in the US.

Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC said that the true number of healthcare workers’ fatalities is unknown, as challenges remain in collecting data, such as a patchwork of state tracking systems and tallying cases of patients who die at home.

“We wanted to spotlight healthcare providers because they are the national heroes now caring for others with this disease at a time of great uncertainty,” said Schuchat.

“We know their institutions are trying to provide material to help them work safely, but already thousands have been infected,” she said.

A majority of those tested positive for COVID-19, the CDC said, believed they were exposed to the virus while at work.

US media reports and Twitter posts have shown case after case of healthcare workers saying they do not have adequate protective gear to keep from getting sick while they are in direct contact with people tested positive for the highly contagious virus.

Some states, including Ohio, have reported rates of healthcare worker illness as high as 20% but have not revealed data at the county, city or hospital levels.

A vigil for deceased colleagues

New York City nurses held a vigil to honor their colleagues who lost their lives in the virus fight since the city became the biggest coronavirus hotspots in the global pandemic.

The nurses, who gathered outside a New York hospital, warned that they are still working without vital protective equipment.

They carried placards that read “We work sick, you get sick” and “Patients before profits”.

More than 10,000 people have died New York City from the coronavirus, among them an untold number of doctors and nurses.

“They’re seeing people die around them,” said Henry Rose, field director for the public hospitals represented by the New York State Nurses Association, which organized the vigil and represents 37,000 members across the state.

The health workers said they are facing many difficulties, including handling several patients at a time amid continuing shortage of personal protective equipment.

The number of known COVID-19 cases in New York state alone is over 214,000 — higher than in any single country outside of the US, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

Public hospitals have been swamped by the crisis, as the 11 hospitals operated by the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation disproportionately serve people hardest-hit by the pandemic – low-income, immigrants and minority New Yorkers, the Guardian said.

The US reported at least 638,000 coronavirus cases, including more than 30,800 deaths as of early Thursday morning.

COVID-19 has infected more than 2.06 million people and killed at least 137,000 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.


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