Coronavirus In Pittsburgh: Health Officials Worried About Significant Drop In People Going To Emergency Room Over COVID-19 Fears

SOUTH HILLS (KDKA) — Pittsburgh health officials are worried about the sizable drop in emergency room visits over coronavirus concerns.

“Between 30 and 50 percent,” says Dr. Jason Biggs, an emergency medicine physician at St. Clair Hospital.

“Thirty-five to 40 percent,” says Dr. Tom Campbell, an emergency medicine physician at the Allegheny Health Network.

“Off 40 to 50 percent, almost across the board, whether that be urban, suburban, or rural emergency departments,” says Dr. Donald Yealy, an emergency medicine physician at UPMC.

People are afraid of catching coronavirus.

“What they see in Manhattan and New Orleans in the emergency departments overflowing, they think is everywhere. And it’s really not the case right now,” says Dr. Campbell.

“Even EMS call volumes are down,” says Dr. Yealy.

People didn’t stop having heart attacks, strokes, appendicitis and injuries.

They’ve just found other ways to deal with their urgent care needs.

“We’ve ramped up video visits, televisits, in every way possible,” says Dr. Campbell.

With these less serious conditions being taken care of in other ways — and with fewer falls, fights, and accidents because of less driving and closed bars — what are the emergency rooms seeing?

Turns out, it’s not coronavirus. It’s people who wait too long and come in much sicker.

“Patients who have had abdominal pain for a few days and may have sought treatment are now coming in with perforated colons,” Dr. Biggs says. “If someone is having stroke-like symptoms, if you delay care because you’re afraid of coming in because of potential infection risk, that limits our treatment options.”

“The hospital is probably one of the most safe environments you can be at,” says Dr. Yealy.

“We are here to take care of you. We don’t want an environment that will infect people, because we are working there as well,” says Dr. Campbell.

If you’re having chest tightness or pressure, trouble breathing, numbness or weakness on one side, difficulty walking talking or seeing or severe abdominal pain, these are symptoms you don’t want to wait on.

You should go to the emergency room.