The ACEP members in New Jersey and Washington state were hospitalized after showing symptoms consistent with the virus.
The emergency physician from Washington, a male in his 40s, is a doctor at EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland. The infected physician from New Jersey is 70, ACEP President Dr. William Jaquis said in a statement on March 14.
“I am deeply saddened by this news, but not surprised. As emergency physicians, we know the risks of our calling,” Jaquis said.
The news came as confirmed cases in the United States hit nearly 3,000 with 65 deaths, up from 58 on Saturday. Washington state’s death toll from the coronavirus surged by six to a total of 37 on Friday, Governor Jay Inslee said.
“A lot of us think that despite everything we do, we will probably be exposed,” Jaquis said. “The first reported case certainly sends a shock wave through the community.”
The ACEP said it is still unclear whether the emergency physician in Washington contracted the virus through community-based spread, or “occupational transmission.”
“The hospital was acutely aware of the COVID-19 risk to health care workers and has worked closely with the CDC to ensure the appropriate policies and procedures are in place to mitigate risk,” the statement said.
The infected emergency physician “complied at all times with appropriate PPE [personal protective equipment] procedures,” Jaquis said in the statement. He told The New York Times that the fact the doctor had access to adequate protective equipment made the group “nervous.”
“This was an area with an outbreak, so they were expecting and prepared. That obviously makes us more nervous,” Jaquis told the outlet.
In a statement, EvergreenHealth hospital told the outlet it is providing care for the COVID-19-infected patient.
“He is in critical condition but stable,” the hospital said.
Meanwhile, the infected New Jersey physician was reportedly admitted to hospital last week with upper respiratory problems and remains in isolation in the facility’s intensive care unit.
The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this month warned of a global shortage and price gouging for protective equipment to fight the fast-spreading coronavirus, and asked companies and governments to increase production by 40 percent.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, prices of surgical masks have increased sixfold, N95 respirators have tripled in cost, and protective gowns cost twice as much, the WHO said.
It estimates healthcare workers each month will need 89 million masks, 76 million gloves, and 1.6 million pairs of goggles.
“It is my hope that these colleagues and their cases serve as a reminder to each of us to stay vigilant,” Jaquis said. “This virus is dangerous, and its impact is still unfolding.”
“As emergency physicians, we answer the call to care for our most vulnerable, even at great personal risk. Knowing that, I urge each of you to meticulously follow the recommended precautions to protect yourself.
“We stand united with our colleagues and our thoughts and prayers for a full and speedy recovery are with each of them and their families.”
Reuters contributed to this report.