New York: Frontline health workers from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds faced much higher risks of testing positive for COVID-19 than individuals in the general community during the peak of the deadly respiratory disease, new research has found.
The findings demonstrated how the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic racism are inextricably linked and need immediate attention. Black, Asian, and minority ethnic healthcare workers appeared to be disproportionately affected, with a nearly two-fold higher risk compared with white healthcare workers, according to the study conducted by a team led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and published in The Lancet Public Health.
Among 2,035,395 individuals in the community and 99,795 frontline healthcare workers who voluntarily used the app developed by Zoe Global Ltd. with scientific input from MGH and Kings College London, 5,545 new reports of a positive COVID-19 test were documented between March 24 and April 23.
Also, frontline healthcare workers who reported inadequate availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, and gowns, had an especially elevated risk; however, adequate availability of PPE did not seem to completely reduce risk among healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19.
"Our results underscore the importance of providing adequate access to PPE and also suggest that systemic racism associated with inequalities to access to PPE likely contribute to the disproportionate risk of infection among minority frontline healthcare workers," said senior author Andrew T. Chan, chief of the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit at MGH.
The study's findings bring greater awareness to the importance of ensuring an equitable supply chain of PPE and of developing additional strategies to protect all frontline healthcare workers.
"This study demonstrates how the two major crises that the US faces -- the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic racism -- are inextricably linked and need immediate attention," Chan warned.