EMS Calls Decrease Amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic

Jalesa Campbell
Updated Feb 11, 2021
1 min read
Emergency medical services staff are recognizing a troubling trend that more people are waiting to seek medical attention during COVID-19. Here’s a look at several statistics, implications, and ways that hospitals are working to keep you safe.

An unsettling trend has been noted across a number of EMS services in the country. Personnel are getting fewer calls when compared to previously recorded data. The Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS) reported that after surveying more than 860 EMS organizations, 69% of participants said that they’d seen a decline, with “with the average reduction being 34%.”

Dangerous Implications

The decline in EMS calls carries one major implication — more and more people are avoiding medical help in critical times of need for heart attacks, strokes, and other non-COVID-19 medical issues.

When comparing April 2019 to April 2020, MedStar found that “calls for heart attacks were down 42%, and strokes responses were down 36%” (JEMS). It’s apparent that people are either waiting too late or avoiding contacting EMS. Sadly, the percentage of patients found dead due to cardiac arrest once MedStar crews arrived on site was up 164% this April.

More People Are Afraid of Going to the Hospital

Several conjectures have been given for the decrease in EMS calls with those including less people being out late, more people following stay-at-home orders, and — probably most significantly — the fear of going to the hospital.

In an interview with a CBS New York correspondent, Dr. Catherine Jamin of NYU Langone Health explained that “patients in our community are very afraid. They want to know, are they safe? Is it safe to come into the emergency department?” These concerns are common across the country, not just in crowded cities like New York.

Earlier this year, Dr. Edward Abratowski explained, “people are afraid to come to the hospital, and we’re finding that patients want to get out of here sooner than usual” (BusinessInsider).

Hospitals Are Trying to Protect Patients

While it’s very understandable that many people are concerned with potentially contracting the virus, hospitals are trying to do the best they can to protect patients. Some measures you’ll find hospital staff taking include:

  • Restricting or limiting visitation
  • Daily staff temperature and symptom checks
  • Staff must wear personal protective equipment (PPE)

It’s imperative if someone thinks they may be having a heart attack or stroke that they seek medical attention. This also goes for any other medical conditions that need attention. As The Washington State Department of Health writes, “if you don’t get treatment or if you delay treatment, you may be doing much more damage to your heart or brain.” The key takeaway we’re hearing from medical staff is don’t wait: They’re going to take the necessary precautions to help keep you and others safe.

Safety and Security Reporter

Jalesa Campbell

Jalesa is one of Safety.com's staff experts on home security, natural disasters, public safety, and family safety. She's been featured on Today.com and elsewhere.

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