Covid has killed 3,000-plus U.S. health care workers of color – new report
More than 3,200 health care workers who treated Covid-19 patients have died from the virus as of February this year due to lack of personal protection equipment and a failure by employers and government to track infection rates, says a new report from the nation’s largest nurses’ union.
Of those 3,200 fatalities, 329 were nurses, 170 of whom were nurses of color: 83 Filipinos and 53 Blacks. The National Nurses United (NNU) report, titled “Sins of Omission,” highlights both a gender and a demographic breakdown of the infection and death rates. The report is an update to NNU’s September 2020 report of the same name.
NNU blames continued failures by local, state, and federal governments to track and report data on the Covid-19 deaths and infections of nurses and other health care workers. The union also criticized “widespread resistance by the hospital and health care industry to provide this critical information.”
“The lack of transparency about nurse and other health care worker deaths due to Covid-19 is a travesty,” said Jean Ross, RN and a president of NNU.
“Our state and federal governments must hold the health care industry accountable and require hospitals and other health care employers to publicly report the Covid-19 deaths of their workers.” Ross also lamented the deaths of 329 registered nurses, “who were forced to work without the personal protective equipment they needed to do their jobs safely.”
“We call on the CDC to fully recognize aerosol transmission and to update and strengthen its Covid-19 guidance to provide protection from inhalation of virus in the air,” said Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN and a president of NNU.
“It is unconscionable that so many nurses and health care workers lost their lives. We look forward to the impending issuance of an emergency temporary standard on infectious diseases by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to provide comprehensive occupational health protections to nurses, other health care workers and all essential workers.”
The NNU researched and documented the deaths of more than 3,200 health care workers as of Feb. 11, 2021, using publicly available information, such as news reports, social media and obituaries. This number is likely a conservative estimate because many cases are not reported by traditional news sources.
Also, many deaths are not reported by public agencies. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported only 1,390 health care worker deaths as of Feb. 11, 2021, and it does not collect occupational status in most cases.
According to Sins of Omission, Covid-19 continues to have a disproportionate impact on registered nurses of color; as of Feb. 11, 2021:
- 170 RNs of color (54.1 percent)*have died of Covid-19 and related complications, reflecting the broader disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on communities of color in the United States. Just under one quarter (24.1 percent) of RNs in the United States are people of color.
- 83 registered nurses (26.4 percent)*who have died of Covid-19 and related complications are Filipino. Filipinos make up 4 percent of RNs in the United States. Just under half of registered nurses of color who have died to date have been Filipino (48.8 percent).
- 53 registered nurses (16.9 percent)*who have died of Covid-19 and related complications are Black. Black nurses make up 12.4 percent of RNs in the United States. Nearly one-third of RNs of color who have died to date have been Black (31.2 percent).