Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images, Bruce Bennett/Getty Images, and Europa Press News/Europa Press via Getty Images

Health care workers are at an especially high risk of catching the coronavirus because of their prolonged exposure to patients who have it. Making matters worse, the U.S. doesn't have enough of the protective equipment, like masks and gloves, that keeps them safe.

And yet these workers, with loved ones of their own, keep showing up at hospitals across the country, knowing that more Americans than they can possibly care for are depending on them.

Between the lines: The coronavirus is expected to create a demand for hospital care that far exceeds what the system was built to handle.

  • An overwhelmed health care system is not some abstract thing. It is a group of overwhelmed people — health care workers toiling around the clock with inadequate supplies to treat patients with a highly infectious disease.
  • Thousands of health care workers in China and Italy have fallen sick from the coronavirus, a warning sign for the U.S.

Two nurses in New York City died earlier this month, the New York Times reported last week, and health care workers said they were afraid more would follow.

  • “I am nagged by a constant fear that a patient who otherwise would have been saved, on any hour of any day before this pandemic, will die today,” Dhruv Khullar, a doctor in New York City, writes in the New Yorker.
  • “Years of honing our clinical instincts—observing patterns in disease pace and trajectory—suddenly seem insufficient and unreliable. We’re learning what to do, and when to do it, as we go,” Khullar adds.

Shortages of masks, gloves, face shields and other protective equipment have led providers to reuse supplies and improvise with makeshift alternatives.

  • Some hospitals have threatened to fire workers who raise the alarm about these shortages, Bloomberg reports.

Beyond their own health, workers have to worry about spreading a highly contagious disease to their loved ones, including members of vulnerable populations.

  • Some workers report physically distancing themselves from their immediate families — including spouses and children — by sleeping in separate rooms or living in different places altogether, per the NYT.

The bottom line: “Each morning, on the way to work, I wonder if I’ll be healthy enough to return tomorrow,” Khullar writes.

Go deeper

Amy Coney Barrett sworn in as Supreme Court justice

Amy Coney Barrett took the constitutional oath to serve as a Supreme Court justice at a White House ceremony Monday night, not long after the Senate voted to confirm her nomination to the high court in a 52-48 vote.

The state of play: Justice Clarence Thomas administered the oath. The Supreme Court wrote in a statement that Barrett will take the judicial oath on Tuesday, at which point she will be able to begin her work on the court.

Gulf Coast braces for Zeta after storm strengthens into hurricane

Hurricane Zeta's forecast path. Photo: National Hurricane Center

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) declared a state of emergency Monday as Zeta strengthened into a hurricane and threatened Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as it moved towards the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The state of play: Zeta was expected to make landfall on the northern part of the Yucatan Peninsula Monday night, bringing with it a "dangerous storm surge" and "heavy rainfall" as it moved into the Gulf of Mexico, the National Hurricane Service said.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: The swing states where the pandemic is raging — Pence no longer expected to attend Barrett confirmation vote after COVID exposure.
  2. Health: 13 states set single-day case records last week
  3. Business: Where stimulus is needed most.
  4. Education: The dangerous instability of school re-openings.
  5. World: Restrictions grow across Europe.
  6. Media: Fox News president and several hosts advised to quarantine.