Edited by: JV Staff
Since the coronavirus pandemic arrived on U.S. shores in March, the number of calls to emergency medical services has fallen by more than 26% compared to the last two years, a new study finds.
At the same time, the number of EMS calls to homes where people have died has doubled, researchers say.
“The public health implications of these findings are alarming,” said study co-author E. Brooke Lerner, from the University at Buffalo/State University of New York. She’s vice chair for research in the emergency medicine department at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
“When people are making fewer 911 calls but those calls are about far more severe emergencies, it means that people with urgent conditions are likely not getting the emergency care they need in a timely way,” Lerner said in a university news release. “The result is increased morbidity and mortality resulting from conditions not directly related to exposure to SARS-CoV2.”
The researchers analyzed records submitted by more than 10,000 EMS agencies across 47 states and territories. They zeroed in on calls made from March 2 through May.
“The doubling of deaths and cardiac arrests during this relatively short period of time, from March through May, demonstrates that people who need emergency health care may be delaying care such that their lives are actually in jeopardy,” Lerner said.
Fear of getting COVID-19 at hospitals and not wanting to burden health care facilities with non-COVID-19 issues might account for these findings, she said. The findings echo those of other countries, such as Italy.
On the plus side, as people remained in lockdown, fewer calls for accidents occurred, Lerner noted.
The report was published online recently in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine.
In a related development, it has been reported that even as the United States reopens, it’s crucial that people wear face masks when they can’t maintain proper social distancing, experts emphasize.
“While it’s tempting to view [things] as being back to normal, that’s simply not the case,” said Dr. Patrick Gavigan, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Penn State Children’s Hospital.
“The virus is still out there. We still have cases every day,” he said in a Penn State Health news release.
In fact, 36 U.S. states are now seeing increases in COVID-19 infections, with Texas, Arizona and Florida posting record-breaking case counts in recent days. Much of that increase is being fueled by younger people testing positive for COVID-19, experts note. By Monday, the U.S. coronavirus case count passed 2.5 million as the death toll neared 126,000, according to a New York Times tally.
Wearing a face mask, social distancing and hand-washing are essential defenses against transmission of the coronavirus, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
Face masks or other face coverings are especially important because research shows that people become contagious before they start having symptoms or feeling ill. And some people who test positive never have symptoms.