This CDC report quantifies the effect of COVID-19 on U.S. emergency department (ED) visits using data from the National Syndromic Surveillance Program (NSSP), which collects electronic health data in real time.
The authors compared the volume of ED visits during four weeks early in the pandemic March 29–April 25, 2020 (weeks 14 to 17; the early pandemic period) to that during March 31–April 27, 2019. Overall, findings show a striking decline in ED visits nationwide, with the highest declines in regions where the pandemic was most severe in April 2020. This suggests that the pandemic has altered the use of the ED by the public.
Specific findings include:
- ED visits declined 42% during the early COVID-19 pandemic, from a mean of 2.1 million per week (March 31–April 27, 2019) to 1.2 million (March 29–April 25, 2020)
- The steepest decreases in ED visits were observed for persons aged ≤14 years, females, and the Northeast
- Diagnoses associated with lower respiratory disease, pneumonia, and difficulty breathing, the number and ratio of visits (early pandemic period versus comparison period) for cardiac arrest and ventricular fibrillation increased
- The number of visits for conditions including nonspecific chest pain and acute myocardial infarction decreased, suggesting that some persons could be delaying care for conditions that might result in additional mortality if left untreated