A nurse in a hazmat suit packages a completed test for the coronavirus to be sent to a lab in Somerville, Massachusetts, on March 18. JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Article initially published in Foreign Policy on March 24, 2020 and written by Annie Sparrow.

Health workers are our most valuable resource for combating the coronavirus pandemic. They are also among the most vulnerable. During the SARS coronavirus epidemic in 2003, 20 percent of those infected globally (1,701) were health care workers. We tend to focus on age as a risk factor for COVID-19, but the biggest risk may be being a health worker, of any age.

The consequence extends well beyond the individuals infected. Every health worker who sickens or dies from COVID-19 reduces the capacity of the health system that cares for us all. Yet, there are important steps that public health authorities could be taking right now to better protect health workers, and only a lack of imagination is stopping them being used.

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