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EMS Calls Down Early in COVID-19 Outbreak

But the rate of EMS-attended deaths increased from 1.49 to 2.77 percent of calls

THURSDAY, July 2, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Early in the COVID-19 outbreak there was a significant decrease in the number of emergency medical services (EMS) responses across the United States, according to a study published online June 17 in Academic Emergency Medicine.

E. Brooke Lerner, Ph.D., from the University at Buffalo in New York, and colleagues used data from the National EMS Information System to assess trends in EMS incidents and EMS-attended deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. Comparisons were made between the 40th week and 21st week of the next year over three years.

The researchers found that starting in the 10th week of 2020, there was a decrease in the number of EMS activations in the United States compared to both the prior weeks and the same time period in previous years. There was a 26.1 percent decrease in the number of activations between week 10 and 16. However, the portion of EMS activations reporting a patient disposition of death nearly doubled (1.49 to 2.77 percent of all activations) between the 11th and 15th week of 2020. Between weeks 10 and 13, the number of EMS activations documenting a possible injury decreased from 18.43 percent to 15.27 percent.

“When people are making fewer 911 calls but those calls are about far more severe emergencies, it means that people with urgent conditions are likely not getting the emergency care they need in a timely way,” Lerner said in a statement. “The result is increased morbidity and mortality resulting from conditions not directly related to exposure to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2.”

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