CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The coronavirus has forced everyone to stay inside and change all kinds of plans, from major milestones like weddings to vacations and hair appointments.
But it's also making people second guess going to the doctor or hospital. Not just for emergencies, but for critical or preventative treatments. Doctors will tell you when you're having a heart attack or stroke that seconds count before you get to the emergency room, but now health care providers are sharing growing concerns that people are not coming to the ER because of a fear of COVID-19. This even includes parents not getting their children the immunizations they need.
"People are getting undiagnosed for cancer," said Mark Nosacka, CEO of Piedmont Medical Center. "People were delaying coming in for a heart attack or stroke."
Concerns from some of the top medical minds at hospital across the Carolinas are growing as people do anything to avoid going to the hospital during the pandemic.
According to data from the health records from across the country, since the United States declared a national emergency in March, the number of heart attack patients decreased by 45%. The number of strokes was down 38%. Nosacka believes at least some of that drop is the result of people being too afraid to seek medical care.
"I think the biggest crisis is how do we get people reassured that they can safely get the care they need," Nosacka said. "That's the biggest crisis I think we face."
Pediatricians in the Charlotte area are also worried. Fewer children are getting vaccinated, and that could have a huge impact on everyone.
"We're seeing drops in immunization rates and decreases in child visits," said Dr. Lyn Nuse with Levine Children's Hospital. "We don't want an unintended consequence of COVID to be that we start to see things like measles or different types of meningitis coming back into our population.
"That would be additional devastation on top of what COVID has already brought to our society."