As the pandemic rampages on, it has been proven time and again Filipino frontliners are some of the most hardworking and compassionate people anywhere in the world. Sadly, that same diligence to saving lives has also resulted in a distressing statistic: Filipino nurses make up the most number of coronavirus-related deaths in the United States.
As it turns out, Filipinos comprise almost a third of all American nurses who have died of COVID-19 since January 2020, or 67 deaths out of the total 213 as of the end of November.
Even though they only make up about four percent of all nurses in the US, their risk of exposure to the virus is higher since Filipino nurses are found in intensive care units, emergency rooms, and surgical units — as close to the frontlines as they could get. This explains the disproportionate and depressing figure that has swollen to 74 this month.
Filipinos also comprise the largest share of immigrants working as healthcare workers in the US. In fact, there are at least three times as many Filipino HCWs who have died in the US than in the Philippines.
“I’m very concerned and I’m very heartbroken because these deaths are unnecessary,” says Zenei Cortez, co-president of the largest nurses’ union in the US, National Nurses United, in a report by CNN.
The top-heavy toll on Filipinos
Why is this figure so tragically lopsided? Filipino-American researchers are at a loss for a conclusive reason. However, Jennifer Nazareno, co-founder and co-director of the Philippine Health Initiative for Research, Service, and Training at Brown University, speculate that aside from being assigned to high-risk areas, Filipino nurses also tend to live in multi-generational households, which leads them to care for more dependents and to be subject into even higher risk.
Cortez also presumes that Filipino nurses, out of fear of having their working permits revoked and being repatriated to the Philippines, are less likely to question authority, according to an interview with CNN.
In the Philippines, 12,425 healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and 76 have died as of the end of November, according to research conducted by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group. Hospitals continue to be understaffed, under-prepared, and under-funded even as the country tallies upwards of a thousand cases per day.
(infograpics care of KANLUNGAN, an organization paying tribute to transnational people of Filipino ancestry who comprises the global healthcare system)