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By Gary Evans, Medical Writer
If it’s possible to have good news in a grim time, consider this: Nine out of 10 healthcare workers who have contracted COVID-19 recovered without being hospitalized, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
We take the remarkable resilience of the healthcare community as a respite against the “killer virus” headlines, but there is the inevitable reality of the ongoing pandemic. In what is considered an underestimate, CDC surveillance data from February 12 to April 9, 2020, reveal that 9,282 healthcare workers in the United States have been infected with novel coronavirus, an estimated 3% were admitted to intensive care, and 27 died.
“We always knew that healthcare workers would be essential to combating pandemics, but I think you can see with this one, it is more true than many of us had anticipated,” Robert Redfield, MD, director of the CDC, said at recent meeting. “This virus is clearly one of the most infectious respiratory viruses that we have ever had to deal with.”
The information was gathered from CDC surveillance forms, and the numbers and percentages vary depending on the detail provided in individual reports.
“This [report] is likely an underestimation because HCP [healthcare personnel] status was available for only 16% of reported cases nationwide,” the CDC stated. “HCP with mild or asymptomatic infections might also have been less likely to be tested, thus less likely to be reported. The total number of COVID-19 cases among HCP is expected to rise as more U.S. communities experience widespread transmission.”
Although only 6% of the infected workers were at least 65 years of age, 10 (37%) of the deaths occurred in this older age group. In addition, 38% of those infected had underlying risk factors including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and immune-compromised conditions.
“Older HCP or those with underlying health conditions should consider consulting with their health care provider and employee health program to better understand and manage their risks regarding COVID-19,” the CDC recommended. “The increased prevalence of severe outcomes in older HCP should be considered when mobilizing retired HCP to increase surge capacity, especially in the face of limited PPE availability.”
For more on this story, see the next issue of Hospital Employee Health.