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Tuesday, July 7, 2020
Home Professions Hospital Admin Why Deaths of Healthcare "Heroes" are Undercounted

Why Deaths of Healthcare “Heroes” are Undercounted

Healthcare workers have been on frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, caring for patients sickened by the virus and putting their own lives and those of their family members on the line. They have been called heroes, often working long hours and without adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). But it seems that heroism comes with a steep price. According to a new report, nearly 600 healthcare workers in the United States appear to have died of COVID-19, and this number includes physicians, nurses, paramedics, as well as ancillary staff such as hospital janitors, hospital administrators, and nursing home workers.

Lost on the Frontline, a collaborative project developed by Kaiser Health News and The Guardian, has identified 586 individuals working in healthcare who most probably died of COVID-19. In some states, notes the report, members of the healthcare team account for as many as one-fifth of known cases. The goal of this project is to eventually document the life of every healthcare working in the U.S. who died from complications of Covid-19, after working on the “front lines” providing direct or supportive care during the pandemic.

Kaiser Health News and the Guardian have been collecting data on health worker deaths from family members, friends and colleagues of the workers, as well as from unions and media reports, unions, among other sources. In contrast, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also been tracking cases and deaths among healthcare workers, but their current count as of June 10 is 72,346 cases and 383 deaths. Why the discrepancy of 200 cases? One reason may be that the CDC receives its data from what is voluntarily reported by the health department in each jurisdiction, and on their website, the agency says that they do not know the exact number of COVID-19 illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths for a variety of reasons.

Looking beyond the US, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) reports that globally, more than 600 nurses have died from COVID-19, and more than 230,000 healthcare workers have been infected with the virus (as of June 3). The infection rates vary widely between countries, according to the ICN, such as the stark contrast between Singapore—with fewer than 1% of healthcare workers infected—to more than 30% in Ireland. Countries such as Spain and Germany have recorded a low deathrate among healthcare workers despite large outbreaks in their respective countries. The ICN notes that many countries have not been tracking these data, and thus makes in extremely challenging to make comparisons between locations.

International Council of Nurses More than 600 nurses die from COVID-19 worldwide. 3 June 2020 https://www.icn.ch/news/more-600-nurses-die-covid-19-worldwide

Kaiser Health News. Exclusive: Nearly 600 — And Counting — US Health Workers Have Died Of COVID-19. June 6, 2020 https://khn.org/news/exclusive-investigation-nearly-600-and-counting-us-health-workers-have-died-of-covid-19/ Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Cases in the U. S.. Last updated June 10, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/cases-in-us.html

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