May 23, 2020 - Health

Muslim health care workers balance Ramadan fasting with battling coronavirus

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Many Muslim health care workers in the U.S. have been observing the fasting required during the holy month of Ramadan, despite the demands of treating coronavirus patients.

What they're saying: Aasim I. Padela, an emergency medicine physician at the University of Chicago Medical Center, told Axios some frontline health care workers, like those in New York, were concerned that they might risk dehydration with added PPE.

  • "It's an individual decision to break the fast and say 'I’m going to make it up later,'" he said.

The big picture: Muslim health care workers routinely have balanced the stress of everyday life with fasting for Ramadan. This year the highly infectious virus continues to overwhelm emergency rooms and intensive care units.

  • More than 10% of pharmacists, clinical laboratory technicians and doctors in New York City are Muslim, according to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.
  • A 2012 study estimates there are more than 50,000 Muslim physicians in the U.S.

Marium Husain, a fellow in hematology and oncology in Ohio, told Axios that hearing that doctors in New York were fasting this year inspired her to do the same.

  • "They are portraying the best of what Muslims are supposed to be. ...They have even more grueling schedules. ... So if I can fast in solidarity with them, that's what motivated me to do the whole month."
  • "The pandemic has made it stressful to make sure we don't transmit the virus to our families, that we make sure we can fast safely, but all with the ultimate goal to do our jobs, which is take care of people. That is our main intention, as this is how we serve God, too.
  • "Fasting just makes us realize God even more and our responsibility as Muslims and Muslim healthcare providers."

Another important aspect of Ramadan is social. The holiday presents an opportunity each night to meet up with friends and family to celebrate breaking the fast, but the global pandemic this year has forced Muslims to set those anticipated gatherings aside.

  • Padela said he was able to have a "much more family spiritual experience" this year because of the coronavirus. With mosques being closed, he has found himself spending more time at home with his wife and children, which has given the family time to pray together.

Go deeper: Coronavirus upends Ramadan celebrations and traditions

Go deeper

12 hours ago - Health

Protests against police brutality threaten coronavirus response

Protesters in Philadelphia on June 1. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Protests against police brutality have prompted the closure of coronavirus test sites across the country, including in Pennsylvania, Florida, California and Illinois, Politico reports.

Why it matters: This adds to concerns that the protests themselves create an environment in which the virus can easily spread, particularly if and when protesters aren't wearing masks or social distancing.

14 hours ago - Health

Controlling the coronavirus in nursing homes won't be easy

Data: FREOPP.org; Map: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The structural issues that have plagued U.S. nursing homes for years will make it difficult for them to prevent coronavirus infections and deaths, even though we now understand the high-risk nature of the facilities.

Driving the news: Within the 80% of nursing homes that have reported coronavirus data to the federal government, nearly 26,000 residents died, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced yesterday.

Updated 52 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Updates: George Floyd protests continue for 8th day

Police officers wearing riot gear push back demonstrators outside of the White House on Monday. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

Protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people continued Tuesday across the U.S. for the eighth consecutive day, prompting a federal response from the National Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.

The latest: The National Park Service said in a statement Tuesday that while it "is committed to the peaceful expression of First Amendment rights," it "cannot tolerate violence to citizens or officers or damage to our nation’s resources that we are entrusted to protect."