U.S. hospital emergency department visits declined by an estimated 42% between March 29 and April 25 compared to a year ago, while visits for infectious disease screening or exposure were nearly four times higher, according to a report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overall ED visits declined to a weekly average of 1.2 million from 2.1 million the same period last year, based on data from hospitals in 47 states representing 73% of ED visits.

“The striking decline in ED visits nationwide, with the highest declines in regions where the pandemic was most severe in April 2020, suggests that the pandemic has altered the use of the ED by the public,” the authors said. “Persons who use the ED as a safety net because they lack access to primary care and telemedicine might be disproportionately affected if they avoid seeking care because of concerns about the infection risk in the ED.”

To minimize SARS-CoV-2 transmission risk and address public concerns about visiting the ED during the pandemic, the report recommends continued use of virtual visits and triage help lines and adherence to CDC infection control guidance.

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