Nurses Make Up More Than a Third of Healthcare Workers Hospitalized with COVID

A nurse makes a note on the window of a coronavirus (COVID-19) patient's room in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at El Centro Regional Medical Center in hard-hit Imperial County on July 28, 2020 in El Centro, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

By Elle Meyers

October 27, 2020

Among healthcare workers, CDC report finds nurses were the most likely to get COVID-19.

Nurses are at a significant risk of contracting the coronavirus among all healthcare workers, according to a new study of hospitalized patients. 

The study, which was published on Monday by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, found that of the healthcare workers who were hospitalized, more than a third were nurses or nursing assistants. Of those hospitalized, 27% were admitted to an intensive care unit and 4% died while receiving care. 

The findings of the study come as many states across the country are experiencing major surges in coronavirus cases. States like Florida, Idaho, Utah, Kansas, and Missouri are all seeing significant increases in daily coronavirus cases. Some hospitals in the Midwest are struggling to provide care for the sheer number of new patients. 

This new surge of COVID-19 cases is hitting rural areas that were spared earlier this year hard. This new twist is especially dangerous in small and rural towns where medical care is less accessible, due to distance or funding. For example, some hospitals in northern Idaho are having to consider airlifting patients to nearby hospitals in Seattle and Portland. 

The researchers noted that healthcare workers “can have severe COVID-19-associated illness,” and some research indicates that the amount of virus a person is exposed to could have an affect on the severity of the patient’s case. The risk increases for healthcare workers on the front lines treating COVID-19 patients “because of their frequent and close patient contact, leading to extended cumulative exposure time,” researchers wrote in their report. 

In other words, this means a disproportionate number of life-threatening cases for the very people caring for others. 

In the study, researchers said their findings highlight “the need for continued infection prevention and control in health care settings as well community mitigation efforts to reduce transmission.”

Achieving that recommendation has proved difficult in the past. At the beginning of the pandemic, medical personnel and whole hospital systems struggled to get personal protective equipment (PPE) for their workers. Reports surfaced of healthcare workers resorting to using trash bags, snorkels, and raincoats as PPE. 

Without easy access to suitable equipment hospitals are putting their medical staff at greater risk. 

Although there are new treatments for COVID-19 and outcomes have improved since the virus made headlines last spring, the CDC’s report shows just how vulnerable healthcare workers are. 

The issue is made worse by the fact that healthcare workers, like everyone else, can suffer from underlying health conditions. Medical personnel are not immune to issues like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure which have shown to be dangerous additions. 


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