CDC Concerned As People Avoid Trips To Emergency Room During COVID-19 Outbreak

( The presence and threat of COVID-19 around the country is scaring people away from making potentially essential trips to the emergency room.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is particularly worried about this, as a new report they released found the total visits to hospital emergency rooms across the nation was 42% lower than it was at this time last year.

As part of their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that they released Wednesday, the CDC found there were only 1.2 million visits per week to hospital emergency rooms between March 29 and April 25. Between March 31 and April 27 last year, the weekly average was much higher at 2.1 million.

The CDC is particularly concerned because the “steepest decreases” came with children 14 years old and younger, as well as women and girls, and people who live in the Northeast — where the coronavirus outbreak was particularly bad.

During the pandemic, only 6% of all emergency visits were for children 10 years old and younger, while that level was at 12% last year at this time.

The CDC report was based on data the agency collected between January 2019 and May of this year. It was part of the National Syndromic Surveillance Program that included hospitals in 47 states. As the CDC researchers wrote in the report:

“During an early 4-week interval in the COVID-19 pandemic, ED visits were substantially lower than during the same 4-week period during previous year; these decreases were especially pronounced for children and females and in the Northeast.

“In addition to diagnoses associated with lower respiratory disease, pneumonia and difficulty breathing, the number and ratio of visits (early pandemic period versus comparison period) for cardiac arrest and ventricular fibrillation increased. The number of visits for conditions including nonspecific chest pain and acute myocardial infarction decreased, suggesting that some persons could be delaying care for conditions that might result in additional mortality if left untreated.”

While the CDC is continuing to suggest that people use telemedicine and other virtual doctor’s visits when they can as the pandemic rages on, they said people shouldn’t stay at home or hesitate to seek in-person care for more serious conditions such as heart attacks, as the delay can be fatal.

The American Heart Association also strongly encourages people to call 911 if they are experiencing any heart symptoms or chest pain, even as they may be afraid during the COVID-19 outbreak. Michele Bolles, who is the vice president for quality and health information technology at the American Heart Association, said any delay in seeking help can be fatal.

She said:

“In the case of a stroke, the longer you wait, the more brain damage and brain tissue is lost, and for a person experiencing a heart attack, the same is true — time equals heart muscle — and in those two incidences, time is critical. Every minute counts.

“The bottom line is to know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and stroke, and to call 911 as quickly as possible.”