New data confirms emergency room volumes plummeted in months after COVID-19 pandemic began

In the weeks and months following the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals across the U.S. reported a similar phenomenon: Their emergency department volumes had plummeted. 

Now, new figures bear out what hospitals were experiencing with drops in ED visits of at least 41.5%. 

The retrospective study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine examined emergency department volumes at two dozen hospitals across five states starting in March 2020. They also looked at hospital admissions, and COVID-19 cases. The study was led by researchers at Mayo Clinic and Yale New Haven Health System.

The decreases ranged from 41.5% in Colorado to 63.5% in New York. Meanwhile, hospital admission rates from the ED were stable they said, until new COVID-19 case rates began to increase locally. For example, New York saw its admission rates was 149% in New York, followed by 51.7% in Massachusetts, 36.2% in Connecticut, 29.4% in Colorado and 22% in North Carolina.

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"These findings suggest that practitioners and public health officials should emphasize the importance of visiting the ED during the COVID-19 pandemic for serious symptoms, illnesses, and injuries that cannot be managed in other settings," the authors wrote.

They also said the finding show the important of infection control measures that protect patients and staff and that public health authorities and health care systems should provide guidance and resources to help patients determine the best place to receive care during the pandemic.