Health Care Workers with COVID-19 Face Dire Outcomes


More than 9,000 healthcare workers have contracted COVID-19, and at least 27 have died from the illness. And a new study has found that scores of these workers are at high risk of poor outcomes if they develop the disease. 

In the new study published in the  Annals of Internal Medicine, Hunter College Professors David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler analyzed data from two in-person surveys to determine how many lacked health insurance or paid sick leave, could not afford prescription medications, and were concerned about medical costs, thus placing them at risk of poor COVID-19 outcomes. 

“Millions of health personnel are assuming substantial risks to serve their communities,” the authors wrote in the study. “Depriving them of adequate income, sick leave, and insurance dishonors that service and threatens the well-being of both health workers and the public.” 

The study found that many health workers had family incomes below the poverty line. 

“Our data indicate that millions of health workers likely to be exposed to SARS-COV-2 have medical conditions that increase their risk for poor COVID-19 outcomes,” the authors noted. (SARS-COV-2 is the particular coronavirus that causes COVID-19)

“Many lack health insurance and paid sick leave, and more than 600,000 live in poverty, potentially compromising their ability to maintain social distancing outside their workplace. Poverty, particularly when coupled with lack of sick pay, might push minimally symptomatic workers to attend work.”

The authors acknowledged that some health personnel once in contact with patients may now be furloughed or working from home. Also, the study did not include personnel at risk of COVID-19 due to immunosuppression or renal failure requiring dialysis. 

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David Himmelstein (Distinguished Professor at School of Urban Public Health at Hunter College, Urban Public Health) | Profile 1
Steffie Woolhandler (Distinguished Professor at School of Urban Public Health at Hunter College, Urban Public Health) | Profile 1

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Hunter College