We’ve heard countless stories about healthcare workers putting their own safety at risk to care for their patients over the last few weeks. With limited access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and poor surge planning, many healthcare providers have been worried about potentially exposing themselves to the coronavirus and passing it on to their loved ones.
After more than six weeks of reporting, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has released some preliminary data on the rate of exposure among healthcare providers. According to the latest report, over 9,000 healthcare providers have been infected since the start of the pandemic. Take a closer look at this startling new information.
Healthcare Workers Pay the Price
The CDC has been collecting data on the rate of infection among healthcare providers since the outbreak began. From Feb. 12th to April 9th, 9,282 healthcare personnel have been infected with coronavirus and 27 have died.
- Of those that have been infected, 55% say they only had contact with coronavirus patients in healthcare settings.
- 73% of respondents who gave their personal information were women.
- The median age of those who were infected was 42.
- 90% of infected personnel were not hospitalized.
- Of the 8 to 10% that were hospitalized, 5% were taken to the ICU.
- Among the 27 that died from the virus, 10 were over the age of 65.
- Around the country, healthcare providers seem to make up around 11% of all coronavirus cases.
The CDC conducted the study to learn more about how well the healthcare community has been responding to the virus, while keeping those on the front lines safe from possible infection. This study shows the country’s healthcare system was not well prepared for the outbreak. Many facilities lacked access to PPE, while others did not have enough staff on hand to keep up with the growing number of infected patients, further increasing the chances of person-to-person transmission.
The study also highlights several stories where healthcare workers felt as if their lives had been put in jeopardy. One nurse recalls walking off the job after she was asked to care for a room full of suspected coronavirus patients without a face mask or respirator. Other facilities have had to resort to making their own face shields, protective gowns, and even liquid disinfectant, using bleach and other common cleaning agents and chemicals.
According to the American Hospital Association, facilities are conserving or rationing supplies, using PPE only when necessary, and grouping patients with similar conditions to preserve supplies. The AHA and other healthcare organizations are calling on the President to use the Defense Production Act to get more private businesses to produce live-saving medical equipment.
Many providers say they were likely infected before social distancing guidelines went into place. At some hospitals, many providers were caring for suspected virus patients without any protective gear before they were aware of the potential risks. This allowed the virus spread like wildfire inside healthcare settings before anyone knew what was going on.
The Potential Underreporting
The CDC says the healthcare community should view these statistics with caution. Many healthcare facilities still do not have access to widespread virus testing, which means many providers may have been infected with the virus without their knowledge.
The CDC admits that the infection rate among healthcare providers is likely much higher than what has been reported, further driving the need for robust testing around the country. Healthcare workers can go home without worrying about infecting their loved ones if they can confirm that they do not have the virus. Some facilities have stopped testing healthcare providers all together in order to save them for patients.
The latest report from the CDC highlights how easily the virus can spread in healthcare settings and from patients to providers, or vice-versa. As the weeks go on, we will learn more about the pandemic’s effect on the healthcare community, so we can prevent these kinds of shortages in the future.