Heart patients avoided ERs as coronavirus hit, US study says

FILE - In this Monday, April 20, 2020 file photo, emergency room doctors and nurses wear personal protective equipment due to COVID-19 concerns at St. Joseph's Hospital in Yonkers, N.Y. On Wednesday, June 3, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study which found hospital emergency room visits from chest pain and heart attacks fell early this spring, further confirming experts' fears that U.S. coronavirus outbreaks scared away many heart patients from going to ERs who should have gone. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
FILE - In this Monday, April 20, 2020 file photo, emergency room doctors and nurses wear personal protective equipment due to COVID-19 concerns at St. Joseph's Hospital in Yonkers, N.Y. On Wednesday, June 3, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study which found hospital emergency room visits from chest pain and heart attacks fell early this spring, further confirming experts' fears that U.S. coronavirus outbreaks scared away many heart patients from going to ERs who should have gone. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

NEW YORK – Emergency room visits in the U.S. for chest pain and heart attacks fell early this spring, according to a study that supports fears that the coronavirus outbreak scared away people from going to the hospital.

ER visits were up for respiratory illnesses and pneumonia, but were down for nearly every other kind of injury or ailment, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday.

Overall, fewer ER patients showed up: Visits were down 42% in a four-week period that stretched from late March through most of April, compared to the same time last year.

At the time, hospitals is some U.S. cities — most notably New York — were overwhelmed treating COVID-19 patients. But the CDC study covers 43 states, and saw big declines, particularly in visits involving preteens.

Some of that may be good news — there may have been fewer injuries from some types of accidents, for example, because people were staying at home and not doing as many risky things at work or play.

But some experts worry about the CDC finding 1,100 fewer visits per week for heart attacks, and 24,000 fewer for chest pain.

The finding seems to parallel death certificate reports. In each of the first three weeks of April, the nation saw 2,000 more deaths than normal in a category that is primarily heart attacks.

That may be the result of some patients worrying more about catching the coronavirus at a crowded ER than their heart problems, some experts think.