• Filipino nurses make up 4% of registered nurses in the U.S.
  • In California, Filipino-American nurses account for 35% of COVID-19 fatalities in California's Asian population
  • Many Filipino RNs work in acute and intensive care units

The coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. is taking a devastating toll on Filipino American nurses, who make up nearly a third of all nurses in the country who have died due to COVID-19, a study has found.

Researchers from the largest nurses’ union in the nation revealed 31.5% of the 213 registered nurses who died of COVID-19 complications were Filipino -- who make up only 4% of registered nurses in the U.S.

The report also found that 54% of RNs of color who died in the U.S. were Filipino, National Nurses United reported.

The study echoed a July article in the Los Angeles Times showing that Filipino- American nurses account for at least 35% of coronavirus-related fatalities in California's Asian population, where many work in medical/surgical, acute care, and intensive care units.

Zenei Cortez, co-president of the nurses union and an RN at Kaiser Permanente’s South San Francisco Medical Center, said the news devastated her as a Filipino American. Cortez said she has knowledge that many nurses working on the front lines often lack proper protection from the coronavirus. She also pointed out that the death toll among Filipino nurses has grown since the study in September was conducted, CNN reported.

"I'm very concerned and I'm very heartbroken because these deaths are unnecessary," Cortez said.

In the early days of the pandemic, Filipino nurses worked in dire conditions. Some wore homemade masks, while others resorted to buying personal protective equipment on Amazon with their own money. There were also Filipino medical workers who had to barter for personal protective equipment within nurse networks, or work without the proper gear, Stat News reported.

In April, 23-year-old Filipino-American nurse Allison Mayol was suspended from her job at a Santa Monica, California, hospital after she questioned the management's refusal to provide N95 masks to nurses working with coronavirus-positive patients.

Jollene Levid established a site called Kanlungan to honor the Filipino health care workers who have died during the pandemic. While the website mostly recognizes nurses, the memorial also pays tribute to Filipino doctors, therapists, and other medical staff.

"We wanted to make sure that we were bringing dignity to people who have passed away saving others' lives. And we were hoping to collect data also, because people need dignity in the workplace now," Levid says. "If nobody was collecting the information about how many have fallen to Covid, we knew there would be no guarantee that the living would get the protection they need."

A nurse attends to a patient suffering from Covid-19 in an Athens suburb on November 20, 2020
A nurse attends to a patient suffering from Covid-19 in an Athens suburb on November 20, 2020 AFP / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI