Coronavirus leaves behind 42 percent plunge in emergency department visits: report

Visits to U.S. emergency departments fell by 42 percent during the early COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The numbers fell from an average of 2.1 million visits per week from March 31 to April 27 of last year, to 1.2 million per week during the same period this year, according to the National Syndromic Surveillance Program which collects electronic health data.

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However, the proportion of infectious disease-related visits was four times higher during the early pandemic period, according to the data. Those visits related to infectious disease exposure, encounters, screening and contact, the report notes.

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention details a 42 percent drop in emergency department visits over the same period in 2019. (iStock)

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention details a 42 percent drop in emergency department visits over the same period in 2019. (iStock)

A separate study released last week reported 48 percent of American adults delayed or skipped medical care amid the pandemic, according to the data from the Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll.

The CDC study concluded that the coronavirus pandemic has altered the public’s use of emergency departments, which may have disproportionately affected those who lack access to telemedicine and primary care.

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In the period under analysis, visits to emergency departments bottomed out during April 12 to April 18 this year. Though visits have increased since then, the CDC says the most recent week, May 24 to May 30 in 2020, still fell by 26 percent compared to the same period in 2019.

Finally, the report noted that visits fell by 37 percent for males and 45 percent among females.

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The figures captured an estimated 73 percent of emergency department visits up for analysis. The exclusion of some states and other areas were due to differences in "completeness of codes" between 2019 and 2020, the report says.

The report recommends an increased presence of health messages urging visits to the emergency department for serious conditions, like heart attacks, and expanded use of virtual visits for non-immediate conditions, among other recommendations.

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