Doctors Are Worried About the Unprecedented Drop in Emergency Room Visits During the COVID-19 Pandemic
In late May, an otherwise relatively healthy New York City woman began having trouble speaking, and she felt weak on the right side of her body. But she could still walk and take care of herself, and with the coronavirus pandemic raging, visiting a hospital seemed too dangerous. The next day, her speech had gotten worse, and she could barely move the right side of her body. Her family called 911 and she was rushed to the hospital, where doctors determined she had suffered a stroke. By the time the woman left the hospital, she was no longer able to walk by herself, and was having difficulty speaking and understanding others. The delay in seeking treatment likely exacerbated her condition, says Dr. Alexander Merkler, a neurologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and an assistant professor of neurology at Weill Cornell Medicine. “Had she come to the hospital earlier, we would have been able to give her the right therapies that would have improved her quality of life,” he says. (Dr. Merkler, who relayed the story to TIME, could not share the woman’s name due to privacy laws.) Stories like this one are playing out in hospitals nationwide as people avoid emergency rooms for fear of contracting COVID-19. Emergency room visits across the country were down 42% in late March and April of this year compared to a similar period last year, according to a June 3 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While there were significant increases in ...
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