Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Fewer Emergency Department Visits During Pandemic

Emergency department visits fell steeply during the first 10 weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, reports the CDC. Between March 13 (when a national emergency was declared) and May 23, emergency department visits fell 42 percent overall. Visits fell even for the most serious illnesses. The CDC examined the trend in emergency department visits for three serious illnesses—heart attack, stroke, and uncontrolled high blood sugar. The CDC notes that "these conditions represent acute events that always necessitate immediate emergency care, even during a public health emergency."

Apparently, many people did not get the memo. Compared to the 10 weeks prior to March 13, emergency department visits for heart attack were 23 percent lower in the 10 weeks following the emergency declaration. Emergency department visits for stroke fell 20 percent, and visits for hyperglycemic crisis fell 10 percent.

Who was most likely to avoid getting needed care? For uncontrolled high blood sugar, visits declined the most for younger adults. For heart attack, visits fell the most for people aged 65 to 74. For stroke, visits fell the most for men aged 65 to 74 and women aged 75 to 84.

"There have been reports of excess mortality during the Covid-19 pandemic," states the CDC. "The striking decline in ED visits for acute life-threatening conditions might partially explain observed excess mortality not associated with Covid-19."

Source: CDC, Potential Indirect Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Use of Emergency Departments for Acute Life-Threatening Conditions—United States, January—May 2020

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