More than 1,700 health care workers have died of COVID-19 and related complications — after many of them said they didn’t have adequate personal protective equipment, according to the country’s largest nurses union.
The report released by National Nurses United also found health care workers of color have been disproportionately affected by deaths and infections and there’s been a serious undercount of figures nationwide.
“While this figure for all health care workers is higher than has been reported elsewhere, National Nurses United (NNU) believes it is a conservative estimate. These cases have been documented by NNU using media reports, social media, obituaries, union memorials, federal and state reporting, and NNU internal reporting,” the report states.
“Comprehensive disclosure and transparency with respect to Covid-related health care worker deaths have been all too rare. These deaths frequently have been met with silence or outright denials. If hospitals are not widely required to publicly disclose their deaths and infection rates, they lack important incentives not to become zones of infection. We cannot allow the more than 1,700 deaths, many of them avoidable, to be swept under the rug, and vanished from our collective memory by the health care industry.”
As of Sept. 16, NNU found an estimated 213 registered nurses have died from COVID-19 and related complications and more than 58% were nurses of color, which tracks with overall numbers linking the disproportionate impact the virus has had on communities of color.
A total of 67 nurses, or 31.5%, are Filipino, even though the demographic makes up just 4% of registered nurses in the U.S., the report found. Thirty-eight, or 17.8%, were black when black RNs account for a total of just 12.4% of nurses nationwide, the report found.
Further, NNU’s count of the total number of health care worker infections at 258,768 is 166% higher than the 156,306 cases the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported.
“However, we believe this total still represents a severe undercount. Just 16 states are providing infection figures for all health care workers on a daily, semiweekly, or weekly basis,” the report states.