For reasons that aren’t exactly clear, health care workers appear to be getting hit more severely by the coronavirus than those who contract it in the general population, according to CNN.
“We know the high mortality in older people, but for reasons that we don’t understand, front-line health care workers are at great risk for serious illness despite their younger age,” Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told the news channel Monday during an appearance.
Hotez added that “there’s nothing more destabilizing” than health care workers becoming debilitated by the very disease they are trying to treat. This phenomenon is also being exacerbated by the extreme nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment like masks and gowns. Donald Trump said the U.S. government has ordered 500 million masks, but it’s not nearly enough.
“I spoke to two very senior officials in our Health and Human Services Department … who said the U.S. is going to need 3 billion masks and other personal protection,” Dr. Irwin Redlener, a disaster preparedness expert, told MSNBC Friday. “The scale that the president seems to be focused on does not match what the need is going to be,” Redlener added. “There is no more waiting for a crisis in our hospital system. It is here, and it’s going to get worse.”
Last weekend, the American College of Emergency Physicians reported that two doctors who contracted COVID-19 were in critical condition, one in their 40s in Washington and another in their 70s in New Jersey.
CNN notes that the Wuhan physician who first issued public warnings in December after being diagnosed with the disease ultimately succumbed to it in early February.
Hotez wondered whether the level of exposure experienced by frontline workers was partly responsible. “Maybe it’s due to a higher dose of virus they’re receiving,” he offered. Whatever the reason, America’s health care system is going to be crippled if frontline workers fall in and no one has the skill set to replace them.