Concerns as non-coronavirus emergency room visits fall across DC region

As the number of Coronavirus cases climb, there are new concerns that non-COVID19 medical emergencies are being ignored, not by doctors but by patients themselves.

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES: Everything You Need to Know

"There is a large number of patients who have health emergencies and we’re concerned that those individuals may be avoiding medical care and trying to manage their symptoms at home when they’d be best served getting help at a hospital, and these conditions could worsen and be very harmful in the long term," said Dr. Deborah Vinton, Emergency Medicine Director at the University of Virginia health system.

ER doctors across the DC region are seeing a drastic decrease in their non-coronavirus ER cases in the past month. At the University of Virginia health system, health officials have seen more than a 50% drop, and they believe it’s directly tied to the fact that people are so afraid they’ll get coronavirus that they’re ignoring their symptoms and not going into the ER, which could have dire consequences

"I’ve been in the house. My kids are in the house. My wife is in the house yes there’s a fear of going out, I just don’t want based on my underlying condition of heart disease to develop this....the front line is at those hospitals, and that’s the last place you want to go," said John Harrity of Virginia.


Harrity is one of thousands of people across the DMV with underlying conditions who are doing everything they can to stay at home and not expose themselves to coronavirus.

But Harrity said he’s fearful. Four years ago in 2016 when he was 49 years old, Harrity was playing basketball when he had a major heart attack that almost took his life. And while he’s scared of stepping foot into a hospital right now in this world of Covid19, he says if he didn’t get the medical care he needed, and as quickly as he did, his outcome could have been a lot different.

"I had the worst heart attack you could have, it’s called the widow-maker. My friends acted very quickly, they called 9-1-1 and that’s the reason I’m here today," said Harrity.

"If patients are experiencing symptoms that could be early appendicitis or chest pains related to heart problems we absolutely want them to come in and be assessed early, waiting on those type of symptoms can lead to catastrophic outcomes and be life threatening," said Dr. Vinton.

"It is not a time for them to stay at home because what we fear is that people will stay at home have a stroke or a heart attack and then they become more disabled," said Pat Lane, VP of Neuroscience with INOVA health system.

Doctors and health experts are urging everyone to look out for some key symptoms including:

Loss of BalanceEye sight issuesFacial droopingTingling down your armHaving trouble with your SpeechChest painSevere Abdominal pain/ inability to eat

Dr. Vinton and Pat Lane are reassuring patients that coming into the hospital is safe and that their hospitals are prepared to keep patients protected from Covid19.

"We can reassure them that we use a lot of protective equipment excellent, cleaning measures and we actually separate our population of patients based on the symptoms that they have so they don’t have to intermingle with those who’ve contracted coronavirus," said Dr. Vinton.

Even though healthcare systems are stressed, you are urged to go to the ER if you have symptoms. Most hospitals are screening patients right outside the ER entrance.