A new interactive database from KFF’s Kaiser Health News (KHN) and Guardian US reveals that many of the more than 900 U.S. health care workers who have died in the fight against COVID-19 worked in facilities with shortages of protective equipment such as gowns, masks, gloves and face shields. People of color and nurses account for a disproportionate share of deaths among those profiled so far.
The two news organizations have identified 922 workers who likely died of COVID-19 after helping patients during the pandemic, and have published profiles of 167 workers whose deaths have been confirmed as part of the “Lost on the Frontline” reporting project, which began this spring. The project aims to document the life of every health care worker who falls victim to the virus and shine a light on the workings — and failings — of the U.S. health care system during a global pandemic.
The interactive tool — the nation’s most comprehensive independent database of health care workers who have lost their lives — can be searched by factors such as race and ethnicity, age, occupation, location and whether the workers had adequate access to protective gear. The database is freely available to help local news organizations profile workers in their communities who have lost their lives fighting the pandemic. The profiles include medical professionals like doctors, nurses and paramedics, and others working at hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities, including aides, administrative employees, and cleaning and maintenance staff.
Key themes have emerged from the lives and deaths of the 167 workers whose profiles are in the database so far, including:
At least 52 (31%) had inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
At least 103 (62%) were identified as people of color.
Sixty-four (38%) were nurses, the largest single group, but the total also includes physicians, pharmacists, first responders and hospital technicians, among others.
Ages ranged from 20 to 80, with 21 people (13%) under 40, including eight (5%) under 30. Seventy-seven people — or 46% — were 60 or older.
At least 53 workers (32%) were born outside the U.S., including 25 (15%) from the Philippines.
Exclusive stories by the project reporters have revealed that many health care workers are using surgical masks that are far less effective and have put them in jeopardy. Emails obtained via a public records request showed that federal and state officials were aware in late February of dire shortages of PPE. Medical workers began to resort to parking-lot deals and DIY projects to get protective gear themselves.
Last month, KHN reported that health workers who contracted the coronavirus and their families are now struggling to access death benefits and workers’ compensation. The Guardian today examines health care workers under age 30 who died from COVID-19.
Information about health care workers is crowdsourced from family, friends and colleagues of fallen health care workers, as well as reported through traditional means. The project is an independent and comprehensive source of information about these workers, the importance of which is underscored by the recent Trump administration decision to divert hospitals’ data about COVID-19 cases away from the Centers for Disease Control to the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
KHN and the Guardian are calling for family members, friends and colleagues of health workers to share information, photos and stories about their loved ones and co-workers who died on the front lines via this form.
KHN and the Guardian invite news organizations across the country to partner in the effort. All content from the series is available free to other news organizations to republish.
About KFF and KHN
Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation) is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco. KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. KHN is an editorially independent program of KFF and, along with Policy Analysis and Polling, is one of the three major operating programs of KFF. KFF is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
About Guardian News & Media
Guardian US is renowned for its Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, and for other award-winning work, including The Paradise Papers. Guardian US has bureaus in New York, Washington, New Orleans and Oakland, California, covering the climate crisis, politics, race and immigration, gender, national security and more.
Guardian News & Media (GNM), publisher of theguardian.com, is one of the largest English-speaking newspaper websites in the world. Since launching its U.S. and Australian digital editions in 2011 and 2013, respectively, traffic from outside of the U.K. now represents over two-thirds of The Guardian’s total digital audience.