The coronavirus known as Covid-19, which has marched across the globe with relentless precision in the past few weeks, has firmly established itself in the United States. Over 150 Americans have now been diagnosed, and the disease has already claimed 11 American lives.
People are terrified, because even though the virus seems to cause only mild symptoms in the vast majority of patients, it also claims the lives of at least 2 percent of its victims, with the sick and elderly being particularly at risk.
As with any infectious disease, healthcare workers are at elevated risk of contracting Covid-19, and initial mistakes by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have left a gaping hole in the nation’s defenses. This has left nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers even more exposed than they should be, and many of them are reporting unprecedented levels of anxiety as a result. (Related: Pandemic proportions — COVID-19 is starting to spiral out of control all over the globe.)
In China, where thousands have died from Covid-19, several healthcare workers have succumbed to the disease, either as a direct result of the virus or because of other illnesses caused by exhaustion and long hours in the trenches.
Now, healthcare workers in the United States have expressed fears that they, too, might meet the same fate. (Related: Coronavirus fears continue to spark panic buying of isopropyl alcohol and hand sanitizer across the USA.)
The virus has been estimated to kill two of every 100 people who contract it, though the risk is lower for younger people and higher for the elderly, experts said.
But medical professionals could be in more danger than others. Being exposed to multiple people who are very sick — the way someone working in a hospital would be — typically makes someone sicker than if they were exposed to only one person who was mildly ill.
Plus, hospital procedures, such as intubating a patient, may release large amounts of the virus that can easily infect workers in the room.
In addition to the elevated risk from close and prolonged contact with patients, healthcare workers have expressed grave concerns about the ability of many facilities to cope with the logistic aspects of an outbreak.
And supplies of protective equipment are already running low, though we are still in the early stages of what experts are predicting will become a full-scale pandemic in the United States.
The Times reported further:
With the coronavirus expected to spread within the United States, doctors and nurses say they are nervously watching as stockpiles of masks and other protective gear in hospitals dwindle amid an equipment shortage. The flu season has further complicated efforts to identify suspected COVID-19 cases because the two infections have similar symptoms.
Physicians say it has become increasingly challenging to monitor the shifting recommendations for treating and testing for COVID-19 while also trying to care for anxious patients and prevent exposure to the virus among themselves and their colleagues.
Healthcare workers are also terrified of the potential consequences of this prolonged exposure on their own families.
“I have to go back home and I have to worry about my family and what I could be carrying back to them,” said Dr. Suman Radhakrishna, of Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles. “There are no martyrs here.”
We salute the brave men and women willing to risk their lives to save others. Let’s hope the government moves quickly to provide whatever equipment, supplies and support they need to get the job done.
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