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Amid Pandemic, Too Many Americans Are Hesitating to Call 911
  • Steven Reinberg
  • Posted June 30, 2020

Amid Pandemic, Too Many Americans Are Hesitating to Call 911

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.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.

SOURCE: University at Buffalo/State University of New York, news release, June 25, 2020
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