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Fears of COVID-19 could be keeping people from going to emergency room or urgent care

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Posted at 5:05 PM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-29 20:09:03-04

Is COVID-19 phobia keeping people from going to emergency rooms or urgent care clinics?

It's just one concern hospitals worry about as they look to phase in some medical services that have been on pause with the pandemic.

"We are trending in the right way," said Eric Borgerding, President of the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

He sees the number or coronavirus deaths and cases every day, but he also monitors the number of Wisconsin hospital beds with COVID-19 patients.

"For the last couple of weeks, I've been cautiously optimistic about that and other metrics," said Borgerding. We just have not seen a real surge of patients anywhere in Wisconsin."

Hospitals in Milwaukee and Madison did see large numbers of cases, but he believes the Safer at Home order significantly mitigated the spread.

Now hospitals are looking to slowly return to day to day schedules after federal guidelines required hospitals to dial back on other procedures and services not related to COVID-19.

"The pace and the scope of phasing back in will be influenced by a number of factors," said Borgerding. "But I think the most significant factor is the availability of personal protective equipment."

That means masks, faces shields, gloves, and gowns.

But Borgerding has another worry, and it's not necessarily measured in numbers.

"The public's perception. I'm really concerned about this."

The public perception that hospitals are overcrowded or unsafe with COVID-19 patients.

He points to news stories of crowded emergency rooms or ED's in hot spots like New York City that are embedded in people's minds.

But Borgerding stresses as hospitals navigate any safety concerns - they are well-positioned to manage infections and infection control.

"We really have to make sure folks know that are ED's our urgent care facilities, they have been open, safe and accessible, all during the pandemic," said Borgerding.

The WHA says part of the drop off in emergency room or urgent clinic visits (not related to COVID-19) is due to fewer people driving or playing sports.

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