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COVID-19 is the likely cause of death for 922 healthcare workers to date

A majority of those who have been confirmed to have died from the coronavirus are people of color, many born outside the U.S.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

COVID-19 is proving to be deadly, not just for everyday Americans, but for front-line healthcare workers as well. To date, 922 U.S. healthcare workers have likely died of complications from the novel coronavirus, according to data compiled by The Guardian and Kaiser Health News.

As part of the news organizations' "Lost on the Frontline" project, the two groups are investigating the deaths and publishing the profiles of 167 healthcare workers whose deaths have been independently confirmed.

Of those 167 workers, 103 were people of color, an estimated 62%. At least 53 of the deaths were among those born outside of the U.S., and 25 were from the Philippines.

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WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

Roughly 38% of the confirmed coronavirus-related deaths were nurses, but physicians, pharmacists, first responders and hospital technicians were also among those who died. While the median age was 57, the ages range from 20 to 80, with 13% under 40.

At least 31% were reported to have inadequate personal protective equipment.

The majority of these deaths, 103, occurred in April, after the initial surge of COVID-19 on the East Coast. At least 69 lived in New York and New Jersey, two states that were hit hard at the beginning of the pandemic. Illinois and California are also near the top of the list of most-affected states.

The first U.S. emergency room doctor died of COVID-19 in March. In April, health experts said that widely-used surgical masks were putting healthcare workers at risk, and a month later hospital workers said their employers failed to notify them when they'd been exposed to coworkers or patients with the virus. In June, a report found that dozens of state and local health leaders had resigned, retired or been fired amidst safety threats. 

For these reasons, the "Lost on the Frontlines" project said it is investigating whether the deaths recorded to date could have been prevented. It cited an overburdened healthcare system, poor preparation and government missteps as factors that have increased the risk for frontline healthcare personnel.

THE LARGER TREND

In a survey conducted by the Larry A. Green Center, the Primary Care Collaborative and 3rd Conversation, when asked to look ahead to the next six months, 30% of physicians feel unready, or "spent" from the demands of the pandemic, while more than 40% are unready for another wave.

Primary care practices are feeling the pressure on multiple fronts. Almost half said they don't have enough personal protective equipment, and 61% are actively reusing their PPE supplies.

More than 164,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins data.

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com