As U.S. hospitals face a surge in the number of patients suffering from COVID-19, they also are reporting a sizable drop in the number of patients suffering from accidents who need trauma care.
That’s just one of the surprising trends identified by health care researchers during the coronavirus pandemic that continues to shatter norms in nearly every industry.
Since the global pandemic began in early 2020, U.S. hospitals have seen their capacity tested several times as COVID-19 victims needing specialized care occupied more patient rooms and space in intensive care units. The impact has resulted in a roller coaster trend for hospital admissions that saw surges and dips several times this year in response to the virus.
It started in the spring as the pandemic began spreading in the U.S. and hospital admissions surged before dropping in May. Then came a summer spike in admissions when a second wave sent more patients to the hospital, but this time for a shorter period and with fewer deaths. And it continues now as a new spike in COVID-19 cases is breaking records for the number of patients hospitalized by the virus.
While these demands taxed health care facilities, the pandemic’s impact also has had an unexpected impact on some other hospital admissions. A number of trauma centers across the country are reporting a decrease in hospitalizations needed to care for victims of things like a boat accident or an automobile crash.
For example, one Texas trauma center reported a drop of nearly a third in the number of accident victims requiring treatment from March 1 to April 14 when compared with the same period a year earlier. The same trend was reported at another trauma center in Pennsylvania, while a decrease in trauma services also was reported at a Michigan trauma center.
The trend in accidents is not surprising, as people heeded the actions of states across the country that issued mandatory stay-home orders early in the pandemic. That meant fewer people on the roads and in the water. So it’s no surprise that with fewer accidents, hospitals would have less trauma demand, according to the Kaiser Health Network.
But there are other surprising trends coming out of the pandemic. For example, across the country, child abuse reports have plummeted since the virus surfaced, according to The Washington Post. That doesn’t mean fewer children are suffering from abuse, but more likely that fewer reports are being made and fewer children needing care for injuries.
Some theorize the reduction in reported cases is because schools closed early during the pandemic, leading to fewer mandatory reporters documenting the cases when injured children are seen in the classroom. Most schools across the country remain operating at a limited capacity and many parents have opted to continue keeping their children out of school as the pandemic continues
While trauma cases from accidents may be down during the pandemic, trauma cases from gunshot wounds and domestic violence have seen a steady increase as more people are forced to remain home either from lost work, changes in education routines or stay-home orders, according to Kaiser.
The coming months will present greater challenges for the nation’s hospitals, as COVID-19 cases and the admissions caused by the virus continue to break records.