COVID-19 has created a secondary epidemic in which people are effectively risking their lives to avoid risking their lives. Imagine a family member enduring a heart attack at home with no medical attention. It’s a terrifying thought. But it is happening with alarming regularity all over the country.  A recent piece by Tomislav Mihaljevic, MD, Cleveland Clinic, and Gianrico Farrugia, MD, Mayo Clinic, and highlighted by Becker’s Hospital Review, believe delayed care may have been responsible for as many deaths as COVID-19.

Dr. Andrew Garrity, the medical staff president at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (EIRMC) in Idaho Falls and the medical director for Air Idaho Rescue, recently described the issue in an op-ed for the Post Register. He noted that the EIRMC Emergency Department experienced a 42 percent reduction in patient volume in April. But that’s only part of the story. Among the people who do come to the ER, inpatient admissions have increased by 41 percent over last spring. That means that those who are seeking care in the ER right now are sicker, often because they delay that care until it is impossible to avoid a trip to the hospital.

Air Methods CEO JaeLynn Williams wrote an article for Becker’s Hospital Review on June 15 about this problem. Air medical services have seen far fewer patients these past two months as well. Industrywide, transports are down about 40 percent. While the decline has been steeper in urban COVID-19 hotspots, it also holds across rural America, which is home to about 46 million people (more than 15 percent of the U.S. population). Those who live in these areas are more likely to die from heart disease, unintentional injuries, and stroke than people in more urban areas.

As many states begin to emerge from their shelter in place orders, it is important to remember that we are still in the beginning stages of dealing with the novel coronavirus. A vaccine will not be readily available for an undetermined amount of time, and wearing masks while practicing social distancing precautions are not going away any time soon. During the continued and uncertain fight ahead, it is important that people understand they cannot allow fears about COVID-19 to lead to other life-threatening consequences.

Read the entire article here.