April 15 (UPI) — The toll of COVID-19 on front-line healthcare workers has been significant, with more than 9,000 infected by the virus as of April 10, according to figures released Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The agency added that its findings likely underestimate the number of cases among healthcare workers because “data completeness varied” among states. In states with more complete reporting, more than 10 percent of all confirmed cases involved health personnel.
Overall, the CDC said it only knew whether or not a patient was a healthcare worker in 16 percent of all U.S. coronavirus cases, which leaves 84 percent unaccounted for in this report.
Additionally, many health workers who did not have symptoms or who had only mild disease went untested and untreated, opting instead to self-quarantine until they could return to work, as health facilities in some areas were overwhelmed with patients.
“It is critical to make every effort to ensure the health and safety of this essential national workforce of approximately 18 million healthcare personnel, both at work and in the community,” CDC said in the report. “Surveillance is necessary for monitoring the impact of COVID-19-associated illness and better information for the implementation of infection prevention and control measures.”
Since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in a clinician on Feb. 12, 9,282 health personnel have been sickened as they work to treat the nearly 600,000 Americans affected in the global pandemic. More than half of these healthcare workers — 55 percent — said they only had direct contact with COVID-19 while on the job, according to the CDC.
And the numbers are only “expected to rise,” the report said.
In all, the agency found that 90 percent of the affected health workers did not require hospitalization to treat the disease. Of those who did, 5 percent needed to be cared for in intensive care units, and 27 died as a result of their illness.
Among the dead, 10 were 65 years of age and older, while the median age of health staff included in the analysis was 42, the agency said.
“These preliminary findings highlight that whether healthcare personnel acquire infection at work or in the community, it is necessary to protect the health and safety of this essential workforce,” the agency said.
To improve the health and safety of doctors, nurses and others as they work to treat patients during the expanding outbreak, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association have all urged federal, state and local government to increase supplies of personal protective equipment, particularly N95 face masks.