Emergency room doctors working to help treat the infected amid the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. are in critical condition after coming down with the virus, according to a statement from the American College of Emergency Physicians on Saturday.
The two cases, located on both U.S. coasts, raise safety concerns over medical professionals working tirelessly on the ground to help limit the spread "at great personal risk."
COVID-19 has now infected over 3,700 people and killed at least 69 in the states.
"This virus is dangerous, and its impact is still unfolding," ACEP President William Jaquis said in a statement. "As emergency physicians, we answer the call to care for our most vulnerable, even at great personal risk. Knowing that, I urge each of you to meticulously follow the recommended precautions to protect yourself."
A 70-year-old physician in Paterson, N.J., -- who leads the emergency preparedness unit at an institution in the state -- was admitted to a hospital last week with upper respiratory problems and remains isolated in intensive care.
In Washington, an emergency physician in his 40s is in stable but critical condition after having symptoms consistent with the COVID-19. It's unknown whether the virus was spread at work or in the community, the ACEP said.
He worked at EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland, Wash., where at least 15 people have died from the virus, according to the New York Times. It's located near the Seattle area, which is known as the epicenter of the virus outbreak in the U.S.
“This was an area with an outbreak, so they were expecting and prepared. That obviously makes us more nervous.” Dr. Angela Fusaro, an emergency doctor in Georgia told the paper.
The recent shortage of N-95 protective masks is also worrisome for doctors, who need them to treat patients, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams wrote on Twitter in late February.
“They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!"
The ACEP said they will continue to "work tirelessly" to protect their members. The only problem is doctors are normally required to get very close to patients to treat them.
"We remain in contact with CDC, Congress, regulatory agencies and other key decision-makers to do all we can to protect patients, physicians and emergency personnel," Jaquis said. "As emergency physicians, we know the risks of our calling. We stand united with our colleagues and our thoughts and prayers for a full and speedy recovery are with each of them and their families."