More than 3,600 American healthcare workers died in the first year of the pandemic according to Lost on the Frontline, a 12-month investigation by The Guardian and Kaiser Health News (KHN) to track such deaths.
Lost on the Frontline is the most comprehensive tally of health care worker deaths in the US The federal government has not tracked this data extensively. But Calls are mounting for Biden’s management to conduct a count. as the Guardian / KHN project comes to an end today.
The project, which tracked who died and why, provides a window into the functioning and failures of the US healthcare system during the pandemic. A key finding: Two-thirds of the deceased health care workers for whom we have data identified as people of color, revealing the deep inequalities linked to race, ethnicity and economic status in America’s health workforce. Lower-paid workers who cared for the day-to-day care of patients, including nurses, support staff and nursing home employees, were far more likely to die in the pandemic than doctors.
The year-long series of investigative reports found that many of these deaths could have been prevented. Widespread shortages of PPE and masks, lack of Covid testing, weak contact tracing, inconsistent targeting of masks by politicians, mistakes by employers, and lax enforcement of safety rules at the workplace Work by government regulators contributed to the increased risk healthcare workers face. Studies show that healthcare workers were more than 3 times more likely to hire Covid than the general public.
“We legitimately refer to these people without hyperbole, who are true heroes and heroines,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci in a exclusive interview with The Guardian and KHN. The Covid deaths of so many healthcare workers are “a reflection of what healthcare workers have historically done, putting themselves in danger, by fulfilling the oath they took when they became doctors and nurses,” he said.
Lost on the Frontline launched last April with the story of Frank Gabrin, the first known American emergency room doctor to die of Covid-19. In the early days of the pandemic, Gabrin, 60, was at the forefront of the wave, treating Covid patients in New York and New Jersey. However, like so many others, he was working without the proper personal protective equipment, known as PPE. “Don’t have any PPE that hasn’t been worn,” he texted a friend. “N95 masks, my own goggles, my own face shield are not allowed.”
Gabrin’s untimely death was the first fatality entered into the Lost on the Frontline database. His story of working through a crisis to save lives shared similarities with the thousands that followed.
Maritza Beniquez, an emergency room nurse at the University of Newark Hospital in New Jersey, saw 11 colleagues die in the first months of the pandemic. Like the patients they had been treating, the majority were black and Latino. “He literally decimated our staff,” he said.
His hospital has placed 11 trees in the lobby, one for every employee who has died from Covid-19; They have been adorned with souvenirs and gifts from their colleagues.
More than 100 journalists contributed to the project in an effort to record each death and commemorate those who died. Project journalists submitted requests for public records, interconnected government and private data sources, recorded obituaries and social media posts, and confirmed deaths through family members, workplaces, and colleagues.
Among his key findings on those deaths for which we have detailed information:
More than half of those who died were under the age of 60. In the general population, the average age of death from Covid-19 is 78. However, among healthcare workers in our database, it is only 59.
More than a third of the health care workers who died were born outside the United States. Those in the Philippines accounted for a disproportionate number of deaths.
Nurses and support staff died in far greater numbers than doctors.
Twice as many workers died in nursing homes as in hospitals. Only 30% of the deaths occurred among hospital workers and relatively few were employed by well-funded academic medical centers. The rest worked in less prestigious residential facilities, outpatient clinics, hospices and prisons, among other places.
The death rate among healthcare workers has dropped dramatically since they were vaccinated last December. TO study published in late March found that only four of the 8,121 fully vaccinated employees at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas became infected. But deaths lag behind infections, and KHN and The Guardian have tracked more than 400 health worker deaths since the vaccine’s launch began.
Many factors contributed to the high death toll, but our investigations uncovered some ongoing problems that increased the risks healthcare workers face.
Our report found that CDC mask guidelines, which encouraged hospitals to reserve high-performance N95 masks for intubation procedures and initially suggested that surgical masks were suitable for daily patient care, may have put thousands at risk of health workers.
We laid out how the department of labor, led by Eugene Scalia, appointed by Trump in the early part of the pandemic, took a hands-off approach to workplace safety. We identify 4,100 security complaints submitted by health workers to OSHA, the workplace safety agency of the Department of Labor. Most were referring to the shortage of PPE, yet even after regulators investigated and closed some complaints, workers continued to die at the facilities in question.
We also found that healthcare employers failure to report worker deaths to OSHA. Our data analysis found that more than a third of Covid deaths in the workplace were not reported to regulators.
One of Lost on the Frontline’s most visceral findings was the devastating impact of the EPP shortage. Adeline Fagan, a 28-year-old Texas OB / GYN, suffered from asthma and had a long history of respiratory ailments.
Months after the pandemic, his family say he was wearing the same N95 mask over and over again, even during a high-risk emergency room rotation.
Her parents blame both hospital management and government mistakes for the PPE shortage that may have contributed to Adeline’s death last October. Her mother, Mary Jane Abt-Fagan, said Adeline’s N95 had been reused so many times that the fibers began to disintegrate.
Not long before she got sick, and after being assigned to a high-risk ER rotation, Adeline spoke to her parents about whether she should spend her own money on an expensive N95 with a filter that could be changed daily. The $ 79 mask was a significant expense to its resident’s salary of $ 52,000.
“We said you buy this mask, you buy the filters, your father and I will pay for it. We didn’t care what it cost, ”said her mother, Abt-Fagan.
She never had a chance to use it. When the mask arrived, Adeline was already on a ventilator at the hospital.
Fagan’s family is disappointed in the US government’s response to the pandemic.
“Nobody chooses to go to work and die,” Abt-Fagan said. “We they need to be more prepared and the government needs to be more responsible in terms of keeping health workers safe ”.
Adeline’s father, Brant Fagan, wants the government to start tracking the deaths of healthcare workers and examining the data to understand what went wrong. “This is how we are going to prevent this in the future, he says. “Know the facts, follow in the footsteps of science.”
Adeline’s parents say her death has been particularly painful due to her youth and all the milestones in life that she never had a chance to experience. “Fall in love, buy a house, share your family and your life with your siblings,” said her mother. “It’s all those things that I missed that break a parent’s heart.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism