October 29, 2020

The health care workers most likely to be hospitalized for Covid-19, charted

Daily Briefing

    A new CDC Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report looks at Covid-19 hospitalizations among health care workers—and the data suggests that one group of workers is at particularly high risk for contracting the novel coronavirus and developing Covid-19.

    Report details

    For the report, researchers looked at data on 6,760 hospitalizations for Covid-19 that occurred between March and May in 13 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, and Utah.

    Of those hospitalizations, about 6% occurred among health care workers. According to the researchers, 67.4% of those health care workers held jobs in which they typically were expected to have direct contact with patients. However, the researchers noted that they could not determine whether the health care workers had contracted the coronavirus at work or in their communities.

    The researchers also found that, among all of the health care workers who were hospitalized with Covid-19, 36.3% worked in nursing-related jobs. Those people included nurses, who represented 27.8% of those who were hospitalized, and certified nursing assistants, who represented 8.5%.

    Patient aides and caregivers, who represented 6.6% of all health care workers who were hospitalized with Covid-19, were the next-largest group of health care personnel among those who were hospitalized.

     

    According to the researchers, 27.5% of the hospitalized health care workers were admitted to the ICU, 15.8% required invasive mechanical ventilation, and 4.2% died. Nearly 90% of the hospitalized health care workers had an underlying medical condition, such as obesity, which included 72.5% of hospitalized health care workers, or hypertension, which included 40.6%.

    More than half of the hospitalized health care workers were Black, and just over a quarter were white.

    The vast majority of the hospitalized health care workers—nearly three-quarters—were women, the researchers found.

    Data suggests nurses are most at risk for Covid-19

    According to the researchers, the data show that nurses face a comparatively high potential risk of contracting the novel coronavirus and developing Covid-19, likely "because of their frequent and close patient contact, leading to extended cumulative exposure time."

    Further, the researchers added that the data show health care workers "can have severe Covid-19-associated illness, highlighting the need for continued infection prevention and control in health care settings as well as community mitigation efforts to reduce transmission."

    Michelle Mahon, assistant director of nursing practice at National Nurses United, said the study's findings were unsurprising, and she criticized federal officials for not releasing robust guidelines aimed at protecting health care workers from coronavirus transmission.

    Mahon added that health care workers "need more testing," so that those infected with the new coronavirus can be identified and isolated to prevent the virus from spreading. Supplies of personal protective equipment also are uneven across facilities, Mahon said, with some hospitals unprepared for a surge in Covid-19 patients (Abelson, New York Times, 10/26; Kambhampati et al., CDC MMWR, 10/26).

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