The Arkansas Department of Health says that the number of health care workers infected by the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has risen to 63, a spokeswoman for the agency said late Friday. Last week, the Washington Post reported a national total of 60. Total Arkansas cases stand at 386,so health care workers now account for more than 16 percent of the total. That is a higher percentage of health care worker infection in Italy, according to figures reported by the New York Times this week. The numbers underscore the state’s need for personal protective gear for people working in hospitals, clinics and first responders, like medics and firefighters.

Several national stories have looked at the toll, both emotional and physical, on the doctors and nurses and other health care professionals who are on the front lines of taking care of COVID-19 patients. CNN spoke to a nurse at a hospital on Long Island:

Patients were streaming in nonstop, she said, coughing and sweating, with fevers and “fear in their eyes.” The nurse wrote that she cried in the bathroom during her break, peeling off the PPE that left indentations in her face.
“I cry for my co workers, because we know it will get worse and I already feel like that is impossible and we are already at our breaking point,” she said. “I cry for the parents, children, siblings, spouses who cannot be with their loved ones who may be dying but can’t have visitors because there is no visiting allowed.”

Yesterday, UAMS staff notified its employees that Little Rock has excluded UAMS health care workers from the 9 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew; they must show identification if stopped by police. That surely applies to health care providers in all Little Rock hospitals.

Forty-eight Arkansans were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Friday, the health department said. UAMS is preparing for more patients by outfitting units on three floors of its Central Building with negative pressure and equipment necessary for the care of patients with respiratory illnesses. It has a designated ICU for COVID-19 patients. UAMS is also planning to have the ability to convert an additional 60 rooms, on the ninth floor of the hospital, for COVID-19 patients.


UAMS will also notify clinics if patients what patients have been recently evaluated for COVID-19 or placed on home quarantine so that staff may place a mask on the patient to protect staff from exposure while test results are pending.