(NBC News) An unexpected side effect of the coronavirus pandemic: Non-COVID emergency room traffic is actually down at many hospitals.
Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital is seeing up to a 60 percent drop in cardiology admissions.
Doctors don’t believe fewer people are having heart attacks, but are instead aren’t seeking emergency treatment.
Those delays can be life threatening.
“We know time is muscle, and that the longer you wait the more damage is done to the heart muscle,” says cardiologist Dr. Charles Davidson.
The American Hospital Association says members across the country “have observed a decline in patients who need non-COVID 19 emergency care” and point to stay-at-home orders as a cause.
Many believe fears of being exposed to coronavirus are also contributing.
Hospitals are working to reassure patients all steps are being taken to minimize risk, and certain symptoms shouldn’t be ignored.
“If you have chest discomfort, if you have shortness of breath, if you have heart related symptoms, it’s really important you come to the hospital,” Dr. Davidson warns.
Signs of a stroke, heavy bleeding and serious injuries or burns also warrant trips to the E.R.