Document Type : Short Communication
Technion Faculty of Medicine, Rambam Health Care Campus, Haifa, Israel
Haifa University, Haifa, Israel
On February 26, 2020, the first case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was detected in Israel. The Ministry of Health (MoH) instructed people to take isolation measures and restrict their movement. Similarly, there was a gradual decrease in the number of visits to our emergency department (ED).
To describe the decline in the referrals to the ED and in-hospital beds occupancy during the COVID-19 pandemic and to compare it to the H1N1 2009 pandemic.
Employing a cross-sectional epidemiologic study, the pattern of visits to the ED during the COVID-19 was compared with the pattern of visits during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, as well as a year without a pandemic. The data was adjusted to consider changes in population size. The Welch t test for unpaired, unequal samples was used to analyze the data.
Within 2 months of the COVID-19 outbreak, the average number of visits to the ED dropped by 30.2% and the hospital occupancy by 29.2% (a minimum of 57%), compared to the same period, the year before. In comparison to the same period during the H1N1 outbreak, we witnessed a significant decline in the number of visits to the ED during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The behavior of people during the COVID-19 pandemic was different from their behavior during the H1N1 pandemic. People seemed to avoid visiting the ED. The boundary between precaution and panic in the generation of the media could be very thin. Decision-makers must take this into account.