OVER 80 registered nurses of Filipino descent have died from the coronavirus, making up 26.4% of total RN fatalities in the United States since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a new report.
The National Nurses United on Thursday, March 18 released an update to its September 2020 “Sins of Omissions” report, finding that at least 329 RNs have died of COVID-19 and related complications since the beginning of the pandemic.
The data collection tracked deaths up until February 11, 2021, and also found that at least 3,233 health care workers, including RNs, have died from the virus.
Of the 329 deaths, 83 individuals were of Filipino descent, the report found.
“Eighty-three (26.4%) of the 314 registered nurses, for whom race/ethnicity data is available, who have died of COVID-19 and related complications are Filipino. They make up 4% of registered nurses in the United States,” it said.
Among the 170 RNs of color who have died, nearly half (48.8%) have been Filipino. The data comes from 314 registered nurses for which race and ethnicity data is available.
Other highlights of the report include six states — New York, California, New Jersey, Illinois, Texas, and Florida — account for 176 (53.5%) of the 329 total registered nurse fatalities.
The NNU documented the deaths using news articles, social media, obituaries, union memorials, federal and state reports, and its own internal reporting.
“NNU believes many of these deaths would have been prevented if greater effort had been made to plan for and overcome the pitfalls of just-in-time supply chain management,” it said.
“Scaling up the capabilities for the stockpiling and rapid distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) must be among the highest priorities of the hospital and nursing home industries and federal and state agencies going forward,” it added.
Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, a Filipina American RN and a president of the NNU, called the amount of nurse and health care worker deaths “unconscionable.”
“We call on the CDC to fully recognize aerosol transmission and to update and strengthen its COVID-19 guidance to provide protection from inhalation of virus in the air,” Triunfo-Cortez said in a statement. “It is unconscionable that so many nurses and health care workers lost their lives. We look forward to the impending issuance of an emergency temporary standard on infectious diseases by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to provide comprehensive occupational health protections to nurses, other health care workers and all essential workers.”
The union estimated that there have been 791,158 cases of COVID-19 infection among health care workers as of Feb. 11, 2021, but believes that number is an undercount “because only 18 states are providing infection figures for all health care workers on a daily, semiweekly, or weekly basis.”
Kanlungan.net, a digital project started in May 2020 by transnational feminist organization AF3IRM, has been independently tracking all health care worker deaths of Filipino descent in and out of the Philippines.
“How are we supposed to demand justice and talk about egregious working conditions when they’re not even naming our dead? Without data, your campaign will only go so far,” Jollene Levid, a union organizer and member of AF3IRM’s transnational committee which spearheaded the project, told the Asian Journal in a May 2020 interview.
According to its site, which is frequently updated using at least two sources, 189 health care workers of Filipino descent have died in the United States, compared to 44 health care workers in the Philippines, it found.
Among the Filipino/Filipina American nurses who have died from complications related to COVID-19 in the past year, as reported by the Asian Journal include:
• Rosary Castro-Olega, 63, a nurse who came out of retirement to join the frontlines, becoming the first health care worker in Los Angeles taken by the virus on March 29, 2020;
• Celia Lardizabal Marcos, 61, who was only equipped with a surgical mask when she responded to a patient suspected to have COVID-19 at CHA-Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. She died on April 17, 2020;
• Maria Guia Cabillon, 63, the head nurse at Kings County Department of Emergency Health in Brooklyn, died on April 26, 2020 after a month of battling the disease;
• Joshua Obra, 29, a Disneyland aficionado and nursing supervisor at a Long Beach skilled nursing facility who died on July 6, 2020.
In January 2021, Pinay nurses who have passed away include Amelia Agbigay Baclig, 63, who worked for almost three decades at West Covina’s Queen of the Valley Hospital, and Rowena “Wendy” Miguel, 53, a licensed vocational nurse from Whittier, California.
Editor’s note: The Asian Journal is working to document those of Filipino descent who have lost their lives because of the coronavirus in the United States. If you know of someone or would like to offer a remembrance of someone who has died of COVID-19, please tell us about them by emailing [email protected] with the subject line “Remembering Lives Lost.”