Don’t Let Fear of COVID-19 Cost Your Life
It’s important to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously and stay at home whenever possible. It is not “just the flu.” If you contract the most severe form of the disease, it can be a horrific ordeal. And deadly. Last week, deaths from COVID-19 became the second-highest cause of death in the United States, behind only heart disease.
At the same time, other diseases continue their lethal march through the population. But our family practice doctors in Delray Beach have become concerned that fears of COVID-19 are keeping people from seeking the medical care they need for non-coronavirus conditions.
Avoiding emergency rooms
Across the country and around the world, hospitals are reporting that the average number of visits to their emergency rooms are down as much as 50 percent, raising concerns that people are avoiding them out of the fear of coming in contact with the novel coronavirus.
From Michigan to Florida, from Spain to China, doctors are seeing these worrisome trends, along with unfortunate outcomes.
“Everybody is frightened to come to the ER,” Mount Sinai cardiovascular surgeon John Puskas told The Washington Post.
In New York, doctors are reporting an 800 percent increase of cardiac deaths in the home. The FDNY used to see 20 to 30 people per day who had died at home. The fire department is reporting they’re seeing over 200 such deaths every day.
Two people in Illinois died recently after refusing the advice of 911 emergency responders to go to the hospital.
Dr. Brijeshwar Maini, an interventional cardiologist at Tenet Healthcare System’s Delray Medical Center, told WPTV that he has seen a 40 to 60 percent drop in patients coming into the ER.
“I think it’s the fear factor [combined] with the fact that maybe this [symptom] will go away. ‘Maybe I’m not having a heart attack.’ And the denial part kicks in. It’s human nature to do that,” he told the station last week.
Dr. Rod Hochman, CEO of Providence St. Joseph Health in the Seattle area, told CNBC that his brother-in-law “was petrified” of going to the hospital for a necessary doctor’s appointment out of fear of contracting the disease.
Possible deadly consequences
“The big question is, are we going to see a lot more people that have bad outcomes from heart disease, from stroke, from cancer because they’ve put off what they should have had done but were too afraid to come to the hospital,” Hochman told CNBC.
Another cardiologist and health-care researcher at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, echoed his concerns.
“If you’re having trouble speaking or you have weakness in one of your arms or legs, these aren’t things to tough out,” said Dr. Harlan Krumholz. “More people are dying at home, and some of them are dying of things that aren’t directly related to the virus.”
People Magazine likewise spoke with several physicians who voiced similar concerns.
“Because people are scared to come to the ER, they’re waiting too long,” said Dr. Lisa Dabby, an emergency room physician at UCLA Health in Los Angeles. “So when they present, they’re much sicker than they otherwise would have been had they come earlier.”
She told the magazine she’s seen a few patients with internal bleeding who put off going to the hospital, with severe consequences.
“They’ve waited a week, and by the time they present to us, their blood counts are so low that they need multiple units of blood and they’re in much more critical condition than had they come earlier,” she said.
Extraordinary precautions in place
What all these doctors want people to know is that they are taking every possible measure to isolate COVID-19 patients from those with other life-threatening concerns. While we still don’t recommend that anyone show up unannounced at the ER, we want to reassure our patients that seeking emergency treatment is safe.
At UCLA Heath in Los Angeles, for example, a greeter immediately separates those with a potential diagnosis of COVID-19 from other incoming patients, Dabby told People. In addition, anyone who enters the facility is immediately given a mask to wear and anyone coming in with an emergency is screened for the coronavirus.
Other hospitals are performing screenings in make-shift tents set up outside the hospital before patients even enter the facility.
Maini told WPTV that non-coronavirus cases are treated on separate floors with a different set of medical professionals caring for them.
“Just the way you would have gone to the ER, just the way you would call 911 on any other given day, do that, please,” he said. “Because time is muscle. Time is brain if you’re having a heart attack or a stroke. Those things are still very important.”
We have also instituted a series of extra precautions in our offices to ensure you aren’t exposed to the coronavirus, including screening every person with a short questionnaire and temperature check before they enter, as well as extraordinary efforts to sanitize our office spaces.
We are also offering remote consultations through Telehealth which you can access on your computer, tablet, or phone. Contact us at 561-496-7200 to schedule an appointment.
The important thing to remember is that, while it’s important to have a healthy respect for the damage COVID-19 can do, other diseases won’t stop for it. You shouldn’t let fear of the virus keep you from receiving the health care you need.