COVID-19 cases among health care workers top 62,000, CDC reports

The report is the CDC's first update on the matter in six weeks.

Registered nurses protest in front of the White House on April 21, 2020, to draw attention to the tens of thousands of health care workers nationwide who have become infected with the coronavirus because of a lack of protective equipment.Win McNamee / Getty Images file

More than 62,000 doctors, nurses and other health care providers on the front lines of the U.S.'s COVID-19 crisis have been infected, and at least 291 have died, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.

The last time the CDC reported on infections among health care personnel was about six weeks ago, on April 17. At that time, just 9,282 cases of COVID-19 had been documented in the profession.

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In the April analysis, the median age of sick workers was 42. Nearly three-quarters were women. Those statistics were not made available in the new report.

The true numbers of affected health care workers may be much higher than the 62,344 tallied in the new report. The CDC based its analysis on 1.3 million people; however, less than a quarter divulged whether they worked in the health care industry.

Mortality data were available for just over half of the cases among health care workers.

Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, said he felt "great sadness and loss" upon learning that so many colleagues had been affected by COVID-19.

"I think that it provides some sobering assessment of the challenges that we had with the supply chain in our country," Gonsenhauser said, referring to personal protective equipment, such as masks.

However, he said, it is unclear from the data how the health care providers became infected. Some may have been exposed outside the clinical setting, in the community.

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The CDC has come under fire in recent weeks for its lack of publicly available data related to the disease, which has killed nearly 100,000 people in the U.S. in under four months. News briefings that were routine early on in the pandemic abruptly stopped in mid-March.

Even guidance to reopen American businesses, schools and places of worship was quietly released amid rumors of conflict between the White House and the CDC.

But in recent days, the agency has begun to ramp up the availability of coronavirus data on its website.

The agency also added instructions Tuesday for people who either were diagnosed with COVID-19 or suspected that they had the virus about when they could safely stop isolating from other people, as well as advice on running errands and visiting parks.

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