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A home care worker drives to her client in March. Photo: Lane Turner/Boston Globe via Getty Images

The coronavirus has made life even more difficult for the 5 million aides and workers who care for the frail populations living at home and in nursing homes.

Why it matters: These low-paid workers face the conundrum of seeing patients and increasing risk of exposure and spread, or staying away at the expense of their income and patients who rely on that care.

By the numbers: Home health workers, nursing home assistants, and other therapists and orderlies hover around poverty and are predominantly women and people of color, according to PHI, a research group that studies this group of care workers.

  • 9 out of 10 of these workers are women.
  • Half are black or Hispanic.
  • A vast majority have no advanced degree, and median pay is between $11 and $15 an hour with little to no sick pay and benefits.

The big picture: It is almost impossible for workers to bathe, feed and otherwise care for their patients while social distancing, and a reliable source of masks or other protective gear for them is not guaranteed.

  • That makes their already high-risk job even more high risk for them, as well as their patients who are most likely to die from contracting COVID-19.
  • If they, their clients or the facilities decide to hold off on services, they lose what little income they have.

The bottom line: "There's no doubt that we're being sort of forgotten in all this, and I fear that mentality is going to eventually come back and punish us," Joe Russell, executive director of the Ohio Council for Home Care and Hospice, told the Washington Post.

Go deeper

Cold December as safety nets expire

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Safety nets are likely to be yanked from underneath millions of vulnerable Americans in December, as the coronavirus surges.

Why it matters: Those most at risk are depending on one or more relief programs that are set to expire, right as the economic recovery becomes more fragile than it's been in months.

14 hours ago - Health

Food banks feel the strain without holiday volunteers

People wait in line at Food Bank Community Kitchen on Nov. 25 in New York City. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Food Bank For New York City

America's food banks are sounding the alarm during this unprecedented holiday season.

The big picture: Soup kitchens and charities, usually brimming with holiday volunteers, are getting far less help.

17 hours ago - Health

AstraZeneca CEO: "We need to do an additional study" on COVID vaccine

Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said on Thursday the company is likely to start a new global trial to measure how effective its coronavirus vaccine is, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: Following Phase 3 trials, Oxford and AstraZeneca said their vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses.