Gender Reporting and Coronavirus:

Why Men and Women need a Fresh Look

Recent reports on coronavirus infection rates to our nation’s health professionals (HCP) gives us a glimpse into the life-threatening situations our frontline workers take on every day. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and media at large have generally reported on infection rates of health care workers while leaving an unclear picture of mortality data. In an effort to recognize health care workers who have lost their lives, Medscape [1] started an In-Memoriam page “to make sure [the world’s health care professionals] are not forgotten.” In doing so, Medscape has provided valid data into the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on health care workers, providing a 477-person international list that reveals:

  • Male health professionals account for 62% of COVID-19 HCP deaths in U.S.

  • Male health professionals account for over 74% of COVID-19 HCP deaths in the rest of the world [2].

One of the most recent reports from the Center for Disease Control reported females represented 73% of the 9,282 U.S. COVID-19 cases among health care professionals, but the report does not speak to fatalities as a result of the disease.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “women account for three-quarters of full-time, year-round health care workers," so it does not seem like a statistical anomaly that 73% of reported COVID-19 cases of HCP workers are female. The more troubling statistic is the majority of HCP deaths coming from the minority male population [2]. Although men make up only a quarter of the health care professionals, they account for an alarming rate of COVID-19 deaths, a trend we see in the general population too. We must ensure our health care workers (men and women) are protected, and reporting on gender-demographic infection rates remains a central component in protecting front line workers. The lack of reporting of gender-demographic, mortality data remains a central concern when tracking COVID-19 deaths. A deeper look into demographic department data is equally important as we more clearly distinguish emergency rooms fatalities among health care workers from say general practitioner visits and other departments and disciplines.

The Lack of Gender Demographic-Data and How it Influences Social Narratives

Wayne Fingall, MTA driver from New York

The lack of gender-demographic data is much broader than health care professionals and has muddied the waters for Black and Hispanic men in particular. The New York Times and other leading newspapers have reported on the impact on Black and Hispanic Americans without truly addressing the real probability that Black and Hispanic men face far greater chances of COVID-19 deaths than any other population. In a later article, the New York Times addressed the growing concern of racial profiling for Black men who wear masks to protect themselves from the coronavirus:

“As the coronavirus continues to spread, infecting and killing African-Americans at disproportionately high rates, black men find themselves facing two concerns: the virus and those who see their covered faces as threatening.”

I applaud the Times for its efforts to make people more aware of the racial profiling that seems to increase in more troubling times. It is equally important that the New York Times and other media outlets address and push for gender demographic-data that will help us better understand and protect our most vulnerable population of men. (MTA has lost at least 59 employees to COVID-19. At least 6 are males and 1 female. Of these 7, all are Black or Hispanic.) Historically, minority reporting has lumped all women of all races together with men of color even when data suggests the more concerning demographic appears to be gender differences. (The same holds true when minority reports do not breakdown gender-demographics.) In a Washington Post article, “4 reasons coronavirus is hitting black communities so hard,” Eugene Scott addresses a number of important concerns that speak to larger social issues in Black communities contributing to COVID-19 infections and deaths. Yet the gender-demographic appears missing at a time when Black and Hispanic men appear to be the most vulnerable populations.

Historically, minority reporting has lumped all women of all races together with men of color even when data suggests the more concerning demographic appears to be gender differences. (The same holds true when minority reports do not breakdown gender-demographics.) In a Washington Post article, “4 reasons coronavirus is hitting black communities so hard,” Eugene Scott addresses a number of important concerns that speak to larger social issues in Black communities contributing to COVID-19 infections and deaths. Yet the gender-demographic appears missing at a time when Black and Hispanic men appear to be the most vulnerable populations.

Although Medscape's data is not complete, it's sample size reinforces that male health care professionals are far more likely to die from COVID-19. The CDC, health care agencies, and the media at large need to report on the alarming mortality rates of men in health care and other professions. Collecting and reporting this data allows men and women to have a clearer picture of the disease disrupting families and communities and ensuring male and female health care workers and others remain protected.

End Notes

[1] Medscape launched in 1995 and within a few years brought in, George D. Lundberg as its editor-in-chief after serving as the Editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association for 17 years. “Medscape is the leading online global destination for physicians and healthcare professionals worldwide, offering the latest medical news and expert perspectives; essential point-of-care drug and disease information; and relevant professional education and CME.”

[2] These numbers suggests male health care professionals die at 5x the rate of female health care professionals.

[notes] Updates will change as Medscape continues to add names to its In Memoriam list.

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