Apr 2, 2020 - Health

Health care workers fear the coronavirus surge

Medical workers dressed in blue gowns and face masks stand in a tent, ready to test people for coronavirus.

Medical workers prepare to test people in Las Vegas. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Doctors, nurses and other health care workers are afraid for their health — and in some cases their lives — as the mounting coronavirus outbreak closes in on a health care system that doesn't have enough equipment and overworks its people.

What they're saying: "It's a mess, and there's no help," Alan Roth, a doctor at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in Queens, New York, said last week. "We have been left out to dry."

The big picture: Dwindling supplies of face masks, gowns and necessary hospital equipment continue to worry health care workers in areas where the coronavirus cases have spiked.

  • Chuck Fox, a gastroenterologist in Atlanta, said on a conference call that a doctor at a nearby hospital had been using the same N95 mask for two straight weeks and was intermittently disinfecting it with Clorox wipes.
  • Roseann Farris, a critical care nurse at Watson Community Hospital in California, is worried that her hospital, which has not seen a surge yet, will run out of supplies. She and her colleagues walked out this week, urging hospital administrators to explain how they plan to replenish their stockpile.

The worries extend well beyond doctors and nurses.

  • Hospital technicians, therapists, janitors and other service staff feel especially neglected and worry about contracting the virus, the Center for Public Integrity reports.
  • A former home health therapist in New York tells Axios that his company told employees to persuade patients to continue getting home care, even if the patients were concerned about the coronavirus. Many of those patients are older and have several medical conditions, and thus are at a higher risk of contracting the virus, the person said.

What to watch: Health care workers are starting to die more frequently. Whether that trend continues will depend on how well hospitals and the system at large protects them.

Go deeper: Health care workers in the calm before the storm

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