Thousands of healthcare workers have already paid the highest price for their daily dedication. Since March, more than 3,300 nurses, doctors, social workers and physiotherapists have died of Covid-19, according to a balance sheet by Kaiser Health News and the Guardian.
Experts say the death toll is most likely far higher. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention count 1,332 deaths among medical personnel. This is noteworthy in that its sister agency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, lists roughly the same number of deaths only among nursing home workers – a small fraction of those employed by the country’s hospitals, health clinics, and private practices.
A number of studies suggest that medical professionals accounted for 10 to 20 percent of all coronavirus cases in the first few months of the pandemic, despite making up about 4 percent of the population.
Christopher R. Friese, a researcher at the University of Michigan, said the government’s failure to track down health care workers has most likely contributed to many unnecessary deaths. Without detailed, comprehensive data, the federal health authorities are limited in their ability to identify patterns and develop interventions.
“The number of health worker deaths in this country is staggering, but as shocking and terrifying as they are, we shouldn’t be surprised that there are some very basic tools on the shelf to deal with the crisis,” said Dr. Friezes. Who runs the School’s Center for Improving Patient and Population Health?
A spokeswoman for the CDC, Jasmine Reed, acknowledged the limitations of her coronavirus case data, noting that the agency relies on reporting from state health departments and that each state determines what kind of information should be collected and communicated to federal agencies. At least a dozen states don’t even participate in the CDC’s case reporting process, she said.
Many medical workers who have survived Covid-19 face more immediate challenges. Dr. Bial, the Boston pain specialist, is still plagued by fatigue and lung dysfunction.