COVID-19 Has Infected More Than 9,000 US Health Care Workers: CDC

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
April 15, 2020Updated: April 15, 2020

More than 9,000 U.S. health care workers have tested positive for the CCP virus in the space of two months, and 27 have died in that time, according to a report released April 14 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The federal data is the first of its kind to offer insight into how the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, is affecting health care workers across the United States.

The CDC report found that between Feb. 12 and April 9, at least 9,282 health care workers contracted COVID-19—the respiratory disease caused by the CCP virus. Of the 27 deaths, 10 were aged 65 and above.

The figure represents roughly 3 percent of the 315,531 COVID-19 cases reported to the agency in that time. However, it said it is likely an underestimate given data about whether patients were medical workers was available in just 16 percent of the cases. States provide data to the agency on a voluntary basis.

“That said, the study still offers important takeaway lessons,” said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at New York City’s Lenox Hill Hospital.

Data from 12 states that did a better job reporting on whether patients worked in medicine showed that health care workers made up some 11 percent of the total CCP virus cases, the CDC said.

Compared with CCP virus cases nationwide, larger proportions of diagnosed health care workers were women (73 percent of cases), were white, and were young or middle-aged adults. That’s consistent with the demographics of people that work in health care, researchers said.

Of those in the medical field in the United States who contracted the virus, the CDC said more than half likely contracted it via contact a coworker or with an infected patient. Slightly more than half of a group of CCP virus-positive health care workers studied said they were only exposed to the virus in the workplace, but researchers said it’s hard to know for sure how different people caught the bug.

“The total number of COVID-19 cases among [health workers] is expected to rise as more U.S. communities experience widespread transmission,” the report warned.

COVID-19 cases in the United States have surpassed 600,000, with at least 26,000 deaths, according to a tracking map by Johns Hopkins University that collates official government data.

Mark D. Neuman, associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care at the University of Pennsylvania, told The Wall Street Journal that the data offers a limited understanding of whether the virus is being transmitted to medical personnel at a higher rate than the rest of the population, given that they may be more likely to get tested for COVID-19.

“I haven’t seen statistics that make me think we’re having large-scale health care worker infections,” Neuman said.

“It is critical to make every effort to ensure the health and safety of this essential national workforce of approximately 18 million [health care personnel], both at work and in the community,” the report concluded.

“Improving surveillance through routine reporting of occupation and industry not only benefits HCP, but all workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.