The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Tuesday that 9,282 health care professionals had contracted the coronavirus in the United States as of April 9 and that 27 had died from it.
The agency cautioned that the numbers were most likely higher than reported because of inconsistencies in data-gathering and the lack of information during the outbreak. “This is likely an underestimation,” the report said, because the occupational status of patients was available for only 16 percent of the cases in the United States reported to the C.D.C.
Health care workers are among the most vulnerable groups during the pandemic because of their proximity to infected patients, a situation made worse because some have been working with inadequate protective equipment and clothing resulting from shortages.
The report said that some health care professionals with mild or asymptomatic cases might not have been tested at all.
The 9,282 reported cases of infected health care workers is only 3 percent of the total number of cases reported to the C.D.C. using a standardized form during the period from Feb. 12 to April 9. The agency said that among states with more complete reporting of the occupational status of those reporting positive for the virus, the number of infected health care workers rose to 11 percent.
Dr. Charles Branas, a professor and the chairman of epidemiology at Columbia University, said it was not unusual for research on patients to lack complete information about occupational status. But he said that even incomplete numbers could be useful in demonstrating trends and starting a conversation among scientists.
“Especially if you are in a crisis situation, which obviously we are in,” he said.
The report also stated that the numbers of health care professionals testing positive and dying from Covid-19 were likely to go up as more cases are presented at health care facilities.
“It is critical to make every effort to ensure the health and safety of this essential national work force of approximately 18 million H.C.P., both at work and in the community,” the report said. “Surveillance is necessary for monitoring the impact of Covid-19-associated illness and better informing the implementation of infection prevention and control measures.”
The office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general reported that hospitals across the country were experiencing shortages of personal protective equipment and that “fear and uncertainty were taking an emotional toll on staff, both professionally and personally.”