The Hues of Heroism

Health care workers of color are over five times likelier to develop Covid-19 than the general public—and their households face worse health outcomes.

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Families often take great pride in their relatives who become health care professionals. Yet, that very accomplishment increases a family’s risk for illness during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over 2,900 health care workers have died in the United States since March 2020 from Covid-19.

Nguyen and colleagues examined Covid-19 prevalence among health care workers and found that those with direct patient contact experience three times the risk of contracting Covid-19 compared to the general public. Those working in nursing homes and inpatient settings faced an even greater risk of contracting the virus. And health care workers of color experienced over five times the risk of developing Covid-19 compared to the general public. However, the risks that health care workers bring into their homes extend beyond the biological impact of the virus.

As seen in the Figure above, Black adults who live with health care workers experienced more negative impacts, such as a decreased ability to pay for basic needs, job loss, and reduction in income from Covid-19 in higher proportions than their white counterparts. They were also more likely than all other groups in the study to know someone who has died from Covid-19.

Black health care workers are faced with the stress of increased Covid-19 exposure and worse health outcomes. They drag these burdens to their homes and families every night. Yet, they continue to take health risks for the health of the nation, although equitable health care may not be afforded to them if they become ill.

Databyte via Nguyen LH, Drew DA, Graham MS, Joshi AD, Guo C-G, Ma W, et al. Risk of Covid-19 among front-line health-care workers and the general community: a prospective cohort study. The Lancet Public Health. 2020;5(9).