Nearly 1,000 healthcare workers have lost their lives in the fight against COVID-19.
This is one data point that stands out from Lost on the Front Lines, an online interactive database documenting the lives of frontline health care workers who have lost their lives to the coronavirus pandemic.
Launching on Aug. 11, the database has documented over 167 of the more than 922 healthcare workers who have died from COVID-19.
The interactive database does several things. First, it allows the public to read the story of those who have been lost.
Then, it allows the public to see on an interactive map where the deaths have occurred while looking at demographic data.
The website is humbling. So far in this pandemic, we have obviously seen physicians and nurses succumb to the virus, but we have also seen social workers, first responders, technologists, security officers and even hospital administrators die.
Lost on the Front Lines has opened the door and revealed the scope of those impacted by the virus.
As one clicks on the pictures and reads the brief profiles of each health care worker, they are reminded these were someone’s parent, sibling, child or spouse. They had hobbies, interests, passions and touched thousands with their lives and careers.
The website also leaves readers asking questions and challenges our assumptions.
While the median age of victims is 57, with the majority being older, 13% of the victims are under the age of 40, with the youngest being 22 – data that challenges the myth that younger people are protected from the virus.
Additionally, the demographical data reveals 37% of victims are white, 27% Black, 20% Asian and 13% Hispanic. So, 60% of the health care workers lost are from minority groups.
Of the cases already investigated and documented, the most disturbing statistic is that 31% had reported insufficient personal protective equipment.
Lack of public data makes it difficult to know how poor planning and mismanagement contributed to the documented deaths.
These statistics leave us asking two questions:
- Have we unjustly and disproportionately placed minorities at risk?
- Are we doing enough to help protect those who were willing to stand up and fight on the front lines?
It is difficult to address these questions since The Guardian and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention differ on the number of health care workers who have died since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Guardian reports 922, while the CDC reports 629 (as of Aug. 16) – a 293-person difference.
In addition, verifying the government’s response to the number of health care workers dead has been made difficult since the Trump administration changed reporting rules in July.
Now, data is reported directly to the Department of Health and Human Services from individual hospitals, bypassing the CDC. Unfortunately, this data is not readily accessible to the general public.
What is obvious is the data is incomplete, and the government has not been fully transparent with the public.
This may simply be related to poor documentation, but as COVID-19 continues to spread, the public and the health care community want more transparency about what has taken place.
Two questions that must be answered are: Where have we made mistakes and how can we improve our outcomes? Are we doing all we can to protect our frontline workers?
Reliable, verified data like that of Lost on the Front Lines is what is needed for the public to have confidence in the future.
We need to know our government officials and local health care leaders are doing everything we can to protect our frontline health care heroes who are also our parents, siblings, children and spouses.