Non-COVID hospital visits down amid COVID-19 pandemic

Oct. 27, 2020

Visits to hospitals in New York and California for both non-COVID medical emergencies and chronic diseases fell sharply amid the COVID-19 pandemic from previous years, according to a news report from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota. The decrease suggests avoidance of medical settings for fear of infection or financial concerns—even when confronted with life-threatening conditions, according to research letters published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The first study details emergency department visits for heart attack, ischemic stroke, nontraumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage (a type of bleeding in the brain), and several other conditions at Stanford University Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian (NYP)/Weill Cornell Medical Center from March 1 to May 22, 2020.

Compared with before the pandemic, the researchers estimated a 39 percent drop in daily visits for heart attack at NYP after accounting for underlying trends and a 26 percent decrease at Stanford. Visits for ischemic stroke were down 49 percent at NYP and 16 percent at Stanford. NYP reported a 33 percent decrease in visits for brain hemorrhage, while Stanford saw a 21 percent decrease.

In the second study, researchers at New York University (NYU) and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor evaluated weekly non–coronavirus-related admissions to four hospitals in the NYU Langone Health system from Mar 1 to May 9 in 2018, 2019, and 2020.

In 2020, there were 3,657 hospitalizations unrelated to COVID-19, down from 5,368 in 2018 and 6,411 in 2019. Weekly rates of admission were similar to baseline early in the pandemic (604.3 in 2020 vs 584.5 in the previous years), decreased during the first pandemic peak (247.0), and later rose slightly (309.3).

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