Healthcare workers began treating those ill with coronavirus symptoms long before the wearing of personal protective equipment, or PPE, became a part of daily life for many Americans. With varying levels of exposure, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how many have been infected with SARS-Cov-2.
The CDC released a report stating that, as of April 9, nearly 9,300 healthcare workers in the U.S. have tested positive for the coronavirus. However, it’s unlikely that this number is completely accurate, given the low testing rate in the U.S.
As more people get tested, the number of infected healthcare workers is expected to rise, according to the CDC’s report, purely based off direct contact with infected individuals and shortages of PPE.
In perhaps the most high-profile healthcare worker death, a top ER doctor in New York City died by suicide on April 26. According to the New York Times, Dr. Lorna M. Breen “had described devastating scenes of the toll the coronavirus took on patients.” Breen, who reportedly did not have a history of mental illness, had recovered from the coronavirus before trying to return to work.
“She was truly in the trenches of the front line,” her father, Dr. Philip C. Breen, told the paper. “… Make sure she’s praised as a hero, because she was. “
Healthcare workers who have been infected are disproportionately Caucasian women in their 40s, while a majority of the 27 who have died were in their 60s. The median age of those infected was 42 years old, and 72% were female. Among the workers who caught the virus, 90% were not hospitalized but 2-5% had to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.
On June 4, the Washington Post reported that at least 450,000 healthcare workers around the globe had been infected.