The Number of Lowcountry Healthcare Workers Infected with COVID-19 Continues to Rise and Hospitals Deny their Employees are Contracting the Coronavirus at Work
The State newspaper reports the number of hospital workers in the Charleston area with confirmed cases of the coronavirus climbed to fifty-five. The State reports those cases include forty-one cases of MUSC employees and fifteen cases of Roper employees. Sadly, the news that healthcare workers are contracting the coronavirus is not unexpected given the news reports coming in from around the United States on the higher risk of contracting COVID-19 faced by healthcare workers and the lack of proper personal protective equipment those healthcare workers need to fight the coronavirus.
Sadder and more unexpected is news that Charleston’s hospitals deny that any infected healthcare workers contracted the coronavirus at work when treating infected patients. A press release issued by MUSC on April 6 and referenced by the State in its article, states: “At this time, no MUSC Health care team member has developed COVID-19 from hospital or ambulatory patient exposure; our care team members who tested positive for the COVID-19 acquired the virus from community and travel transmission.”
We admittedly have not seen the details regarding the confirmed cases in MUSC employees, but MUSC’s position seems questionable. Given what we know about the size of the local population, the number of people employed by MUSC, and the number of local coronavirus cases, the 41 coronavirus cases among MUSC’s employees appear to represent 10% to 13% of the confirmed cases in the Charleston area. Yet MUSC employees make up only 2.1% to 4.1% of the local population. These are statistically significant differences in the number of MUSC employees contracting the coronavirus versus the number of people in the public as a whole contacting the coronavirus.
The numbers appear to indicate that MUSC employees are contracting the coronavirus at a much higher rate than the rest of the population, about three to four times the rate one would expect given their percentage of the total population. Barring some alternative explanation, either MUSC employees are incredibly unlucky, are careless in following the coronavirus precautions, or are contracting COVID-19 at work when treating infected patients. Given that MUSC’s healthcare workers are on the frontlines fighting the coronavirus and presumably know more than others about the seriousness of this disease and the precautions necessary to avoid contracting it, the idea that MUSC’s employees are careless in following the coronavirus precautions seems very unlikely. MUSC describes in the same April 6 press release the extra precautions it requires its employees to take to avoid contracting or spreading the coronavirus.
We hope that hospitals are not and will not deny that any healthcare worker contracted the coronavirus at work in an effort to avoid the hospital’s workers’ compensation obligations. In this emergency, when their employees are putting their lives on the line to save others, hospitals should be stepping up to take care of their employees. Should hospitals fail to acknowledge that healthcare workers contract the coronavirus at work even if there is evidence to the contrary, the Steinberg Law Firm has been successful pursuing workers’ compensation claims for communicable diseases contracted at work and will assist healthcare workers in pursuing workers’ compensation claims for contracting the coronavirus at work.
The Charleston tri-county area (Charleston County, Berkeley County, and Dorchester County) had 418 confirmed coronavirus cases on April 8. The 41 confirmed coronavirus cases among MUSC employees represent 10% of the coronavirus cases in those three counties. Yet MUSC employs 17,000 people, which equals 2.1% of the 802,000 people who lived in the Charleston tri-county area in 2019. Even if one were to only consider the 411,000 people who lived in Charleston County in 2019, the MUSC employees make up only 4.1% of the population yet would be 13% of the 308 confirmed coronavirus cases in the county.