Medical workers are sacrificing themselves to protect us. Here’s how we can help them | Coronavirus outbreak

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It is a point of pride for the American people that we honor the sacrifices that make our peaceful lives possible. On battlefields abroad, we leave no fallen behind, and immortalize acts of valor in medals and memorials that say more than words can describe. In communities here at home, we celebrate firefighters who make the ultimate sacrifice and compensate them for the dangers of their job. Near or far, when a hero falls in service to this country, we support their families with survivor benefits that protect them from financial hardship as a result of their loved one’s sacrifice.

Over the last year, Covid-19 has emerged as a new and deadly foe. The frontlines are no longer in faraway war zones – they’re stretched across hospitals and medical care facilities in every corner of this country. It’s time we recognize the healthcare practitioners, nursing home workers and emergency service providers for the sacrifices they make to care for the sick and protect the healthy. It’s time to offer support for their sacrifices, just like we do for every other hero who serves our nation.

Everyone from doctors and nurses to janitors and clerical workers is vulnerable at our hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities. One study found the number of healthcare workers who tested positive for Covid-19 was 11 times higher than the general population. And while this virus attacks indiscriminately, its victims are not a random sampling of our society. A Harvard Medical School study found that healthcare workers of color are more likely to care for Covid-19 patients, and nearly twice as likely as their white counterparts to test positive for the virus. Furthermore, immigrants account for almost one in five healthcare workers, and they often work in the most vulnerable communities.

What all of our healthcare heroes have in common is they suit up every day knowing there is no Kevlar armor to protect them from the virus; in many cases, they don’t even have a proper N95 mask. What’s worse, the true extent of those who sacrifice is hard to know. Less than 25% of Covid-19 infection data even specifies whether or not the individual was a healthcare worker, making it impossible to rely on the Centers for Disease Control for an accurate count. Lost on the Frontline, an independent effort to track this information through obituaries, puts the number at 1,270 and counting. While this is probably the most accurate depiction we have right now, the exact figure is almost certainly higher, and it’s worth considering the circumstances that these heroes and their families are enduring.

The fact is healthcare workers don’t even need to catch Covid-19 for it to be ruinous. Even a possible exposure is reason to self-isolate, which means finding – and paying for – a place to live for two weeks until it’s safe to return home. Some states have a program to help hospital workers quarantine, but for those that don’t, just affording a place to safely quarantine can be an overwhelming challenge.

If a healthcare worker does catch the virus, not only are they in for the fight of their lives, but their loved ones now face daunting new challenges in an uncertain world. Many are denied basic benefits and face financial hardships from medical or funeral expenses. Families of deceased healthcare personnel are regularly denied worker’s compensation. Financial support varies wildly from state to state – some families can receive a lifetime salary replacement, while others receive barely enough to cover basic medical bills. Some families may even be left with their loved one’s crippling student debt, as not all student loans are discharged upon death.

As a nation, we have always honored the men and women who make the ultimate sacrifice, and we should do the same for our medical heroes too. That’s why I introduced the Frontline Heroes Act last week. The legislation would create the Covid-19 Frontline Healthcare Heroes Survivor and Disability Benefit Program. That program would provide survival benefits to the families of healthcare workers who succumb to the disease, and disability benefits to healthcare workers who are permanently disabled by Covid-related health complications. The fund would also compensate families for any existing student loans not discharged at death and provide resources to study the long-term impacts of this disease. Last but not least, it would collect data on the infection rate and fatalities among healthcare workers, so we can finally understand the true toll on healthcare workers.

We have never failed heroes who sacrificed their lives before, and we’re not going to start now. Americans are grateful for the sacrifices that healthcare workers are making. The Frontline Heroes Act is a way to show our appreciation and provide these heroes, and their families, some security as they tackle the greatest threat we’ve faced in generations.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Medical workers are sacrificing themselves to protect us. Here’s how we can help them | Coronavirus outbreak

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