BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - In the beginning, there was a lot of focus on healthcare workers as heroes during the pandemic, working long hours to take care of patients. Four months later, they’re still working long hours, and they’re getting sick, too.
5,200 healthcare workers have contracted COVID-19 in Alabama alone, thousands more nationally.
Healthcare workers are immersed in the pandemic daily, without reprieve... wearing a great deal of protective equipment.
“I have an N-95 mask with me today, these are not particularly comfortable, it’s not fun to breathe through them, they’re tight on your face,” demonstrated Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo of UAB Infectious Diseases.
Four months in, it starts to feel normal... and that can breed complacency.
"What people often do, frankly, is to take their masks off when they go to the break room."
But the hospital doors don’t stop the virus, and health workers aren’t there 24/7.
“We should protect people in hospitals, but the fundamental change we need to make is in the rate of community transmission,” said Marrazzo.
If people in the community don't wear masks and keep their distance, that essentially undoes the work to keep workers safe inside the hospital.
“Right now, if we can guarantee adequate personal protective equipment, or PPE, we can prevent in-hospital or nosocomial transmission,” she added.