Filipino nurses have a long history of working in New York City hospitals, and a number of studies have revealed how hard the coronavirus affected them in the early months of the U.S. outbreak.
An analysis by ProPublica found that at least 30 Filipino health care workers in the New York City area had died from the virus by June.
And a survey published in September by National Nurses United, the largest nurses’ union in the United States, went on to find that 67 Filipino nurses had died of Covid-19. That figure, which was pulled from public obituaries, is around a third of the total registered nurses who have died nationwide, though Filipinos make up only 4 percent of those nurses over all.
“It’s really heartbreaking,” said Zenei Cortez, the president of National Nurses United and a nurse from the Philippines herself. She also fears that the true toll is worse. “The numbers we are producing are all underreported, I’m sure of that.”
Now, another wave of infections has arrived. The infection rate in New York City has risen in recent weeks, and hospitalizations are increasing; more than 450 New Yorkers have died of Covid since the beginning of 2021.
Many nurses working in hospitals are better prepared this time: They know how and when to use ventilators, for example. They also have priority in receiving the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which have been shown to be highly effective.
But it will be weeks before New York City’s hospital workers are fully immunized. In the meantime, nurses in several of the city’s hospitals have warned about a lack of protective gear. And some hospitals are reviving coronavirus units that became a necessity last spring.