PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – This week marks one year since health officials declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. And now, information is emerging about the healthcare workers who lost their lives along the way. New numbers show more than 50 Arizonans working in healthcare settings died as a result of contracting the virus.
One of them is 57-year-old David DiNieri of Glendale, an X-Ray technician who worked at Tempe St. Luke’s hospital. “He loved being a grandpa; it was his joy,” says his daughter, Jacquelyn DiNieri.
The Navy veteran spent more than 30 years in the radiology field. Jacquelyn recalls watching him interact with his patients. “People smiled when he walked into the room,” says Jacquelyn.
In December 2020, Jacquelyn says, David got sick. She insisted he go to the hospital. “I shouldn’t have made him go” says Jacquelyn. “I didn’t want him to go, but I knew he couldn’t breathe. He was scared.”
A week later on December 12, 2020, David took his last breath.
David DiNieri is now included in a database of healthcare workers and support staff who have died from COVID-19. The data curated by The Guardian and Kaiser Health News tallies healthcare deaths across the country at more than 3,500. In Arizona there have been 54 deaths, according to the database.
“When you don’t know what’s going on, it’s hard to give guidance,” says Dr. Ross Goldberg, President of the Arizona Medical Association. Goldberg says the novel virus posed many challenges for healthcare workers because, initially, not much was known about how coronavirus is transmitted and how healthcare workers could protect themselves. While it’s difficult to track when and where someone contracts COVID-19, Goldberg says there’s no doubt frontline workers have a higher risk.
“When you’re in the healthcare field taking care of sick people, you’re going to be exposed to something more than the normal population,” says Goldberg.
“He was somebody that you’d never in a million years thought that this was how he would go,” says Jacquelyn.
A year into the pandemic, Jacquelyn says it’s too soon for elected officials to give up on public health measures. “I think if they’d lost somebody this easily would have been, this pandemic, would have been shut down,” says Jacquelyn.
The Guardian and Kaiser Health News project also tracks healthcare deaths by job role, race, age, and access to PPE. You can learn more by clicking HERE.
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