The coronavirus is killing Americans, but not only in the ways that people expect.
Though COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 130,000 Americans, a reluctance to seek medical care during the pandemic has prompted a concurrent spike in deaths from heart disease. Death rates for patients with heart problems sky-rocketed 27% since March, while emergency room visits for heart attacks fell by 23%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In New York City alone, more than 50 patients a day died “excess deaths” from heart disease, a Manhattan hospital representative explained to the Washington Post. The five states that were hit the hardest in the pandemic’s early days — Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and New York — saw 8,300 more deaths from heart problems than usual from March to May.
Even at the height of the outbreak, hospitals did not turn away anyone seeking cardiovascular care. Yet the number of heart patients seeking treatment remained low. Fear of exposure to the novel coronavirus kept people from seeking much-needed medical attention, from routine care appointments to ER visits for acute symptoms.
Certain policies allow for patients to maintain their cardiovascular health care while also minimizing potential exposure to the novel coronavirus.
For example, broader access to telemedicine allows patients to connect with their health care provider virtually to continue managing their condition. This is an important alternative for patients who may be high risk or live in an area experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak.
Even with the advances of telemedicine, however, patients experiencing acute symptoms need to go to the ER. As rising cardiovascular death rates prove, exposure to the novel coronavirus is not the only threat that patients face.