April 16, 2020

Covid-19 has hit 9,000+ health care workers. Take these 6 steps to protect frontline staff.

Daily Briefing

    CDC on Tuesday released a report offering the first look at how health care workers are being hit by Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, with 9,282 providers contracting the disease between Feb. 12 and April 9, and 27 dying from the disease —although the agency cautioned that the findings likely underestimated the actual totals.

    Starter list: How you can support frontline staff during the Covid-19 crisis

    CDC pulled the data from laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid-19 reported to the agency from all 50 states, four U.S. territories, and Washington, D.C. during the specified timeframe. However, the agency  cautioned that the results were "likely an underestimation" of the total number of infected health care personnel.

    According to the agency, of the 315,531 cases reported to CDC from Feb. 12 to April 9, only 49,370, or 16%, included information about whether the infected individual worked in health care—which is how CDC calculated the 9,282 figure, or 3% of the overall number of cases.

    However, when CDC examined data from a select group of 12 states that provided more detailed statistics, the findings indicated that health workers accounted for 11% of those states' 15,194 reported Covid-19 cases. CDC also noted that the number of health care providers with the disease and dying from the disease are likely to increase as more patients come to health care facilities.

    Key findings

    Of the 9,282 identified health care workers infected with Covid-19, 55% were between the ages of 16 and 44, while 21% were between 45 and 54, and 24% were ages 55 or higher. The median age was 42 years old. And overall, while deaths from Covid-19 among health care workers occurred in every age group, they were more common among those age 65 and older, with 10 of the 27 deaths coming from that age group.

    CDC also found that 73% of the health care workers who contracted the disease were women, which reflects women's representation in the health care workforce. According to census numbers for 2013 through 2018, women account for 74% of all doctors, nurses, and other clinicians treating patients.

    Of the health care workers who reported exposure to someone with a laboratory-confirmed case of Covid-19, 55% said that exposure occurred in a health care setting, while just over a quarter said they were exposed to the virus exclusively in a household setting.

    In addition, the report found that one in 10 health care workers with Covid-19 were hospitalized, which CDC said is a lower hospitalization rate than the rest of the U.S. population with Covid-19, which sees an estimated 21% to 31% hospitalization rate. According to CDC, this could be because of the younger median age of health workers with Covid-19 compared to the rest of the country, or the fact that health care workers are being tested more than the general population, which means more less-severe versions of Covid-19 are being identified (Waldstein, New York Times, 4/14; Adamy, Wall Street Journal, 4/14; Jewett/Szabo, Kaiser Health News, 4/15).

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