The Pan American Health Organization says that almost 570,000 health care workers in the Americas have contracted coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic, with health care workers in the US and Mexico making up one-in-seven of all cases reported in those countries.
The majority of those infected were in the 30 to 49 age group.
At PAHO's weekly briefing, Director Dr. Carissa Etienne said that more than 140,000 workers in the healthcare sector in the US had become sick with Covid-19 — of whom 660 had died.
In Brazil almost 270,000 workers in health care had tested positive for Covid-19. She said that health workers were "becoming infected at an alarming rate."
Etienne added that when the pandemic broke out many health workers were redirected to help without sufficient training to protect themselves. In many hospitals Covid-19 patients were exposed to others who had different conditions, leaving health workers more vulnerable. This was especially the case, she said, when supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) were running low and workers had to re-use masks and gowns.
Etienne said the Americas region now have 13.5 million Covid-19 cases and almost 469,000 deaths from the virus. She noted that after months of unrelenting spread, cases were stabilizing in the United States and Brazil — but the two countries continued to report more new cases than any other nation.
Etienne said that Caribbean states were seeing a surge in the virus, with nearly half of all reported cases in the Bahamas being reported in the last two weeks. But she said most countries in Latin America had seen the number of new cases drop over the last week. In particular, Chile and Uruguay had managed to "flatten their curve" of infection.
At its briefing PAHO also asked the United States to reconsider its decision not to take part in the COVAX initiative, which is designed to enable poorer and smaller countries to gain access to a vaccine. COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organization. Its aim is to "accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access," according to the WHO.
PAHO said more than 170 countries had signed up to the program. In June, the US government announced it was cutting funding to the WHO.