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ED Visits Decreased in Five States From January Through April 2020

THURSDAY, Aug. 6, 2020 -- As the COVID-19 pandemic intensified, there was a decrease in emergency department visits in five states from January through April 2020, according to a study published online Aug. 3 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Molly M. Jeffery, Ph.D., from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and colleagues examined trends in emergency department visits and visits that led to hospitalizations covering a four-month period leading up to and during the COVID-19 outbreak in 24 emergency departments from five large health care systems in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and North Carolina.

The researchers found that before the pandemic, the annual emergency department volume varied from 13,000 to 115,000 visits per year. During the study period, emergency department visits decreased, ranging from a decrease of 41.5 percent in Colorado to a 63.5 percent decrease in New York. March 2020 had the weeks with the most rapid rates of decrease in visits, corresponding with national public health messaging about COVID-19. Hospital admission rates from the emergency department were stable until a local increase in new COVID-19 case rates began; the largest relative increase in admission rates was seen in New York (149 percent), while the increases in admission rates were 51.7, 36.2, 29.4, and 22 percent in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Colorado, and North Carolina, respectively.

"This is a case where public messaging appears to have worked too well," a coauthor said in a statement. "We said, 'stay home,' and what people heard was: 'Stay home at all costs to avoid COVID-19.'"

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Posted: August 2020

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