Michigan Residents Delayed Hospital Care During Height of Pandemic and Died, Study Shows

Many Michigan residents who delayed going to the hospital for care out of fear during the height of the novel coronavirus pandemic died, according to new data.

According to data released by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, there was a 62 percent increase in the number of residents who died while not admitted into a hospital from March 15 to May 23 of this year when compared to 2019.

The data also showed out-of-hospital cardiac arrests increased 43.3 percent and ambulance transports of residents who had heart attacks decreased 10 percent during the same time period when compared to last year. Overall emergency medical services transports decreased by 17 percent statewide and the transport of stroke patients also decreased 12.1 percent.

A spokesperson for the Michigan health department told Newsweek in an email they believe people's fears to visit hospitals during the pandemic "played a key role" in the increase of out-of-hospital deaths.

The Michigan Association of Ambulance Services stated in a press release that providers wear additional protective gear so that those who are afraid to get medical treatment due to the pandemic can feel safer doing so.

"Medical emergencies have not gone away during the pandemic and Michigan EMS providers are standing by to help Michiganders safely get the lifesaving help they need," Jack Fisher, the president of the MAAS, said. "Every minute counts in a medical emergency and we hope this alarming trend of people avoiding care and dying needlessly doesn't continue."

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy director for the state health department urged residents via a statement not to delay a visit to the hospital if they are having a medical emergency.

"It is incredibly important that people not delay care, especially if they are having concerning symptoms like chest pain, difficulty breathing or dizziness. Hospitals and EMS providers are working hard to keep patients safe, so please contact them if you are having a medical emergency," Khaldun said.

Michigan has seen 64,132 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 5,951 deaths attributed to the disease as of Wednesday, July 1, according to the state coronavirus website. There have also been 51,099 recoveries in Michigan as of June 26.

The state saw 262 new cases July 1 and four deaths, relatively low numbers for Michigan, a state with one of the highest death totals in the country since the start of the pandemic, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who has been criticized by state lawmakers for the strict lockdown measures implemented to slow the spread of the coronavirus, said Wednesday that she is banning indoor bar services in some Michigan areas.

Today, I closed indoor service at bars throughout most of lower Michigan to protect the progress our state has made against COVID-19. I also signed bills that will allow cocktails-to-go at bars & restaurants to help these businesses serve more Michiganders.

Details ⬇️

— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) July 1, 2020

"Today, I closed indoor service at bars throughout most of lower Michigan to protect the progress our state has made against COVID-19," the governor said in a tweet. "I also signed bills that will allow cocktails-to-go at bars & restaurants to help these businesses serve more Michiganders."

Whitmer also urged residents to continue using mitigation tactics, such as wearing face masks, as the state seeks to "slow the spread of the virus and keep people safe."

"If we open up our economy too quickly, the efforts of the last three months will be for nothing and we will have to go through this pain all over again and put our economy, health and medical system at risk. Nobody wants to move backward. Everyone, please do your part, and let's show the nation and the world how smart we are," Whitmer said.

Ambulance
A Detroit ambulance makes its way through downtown in Detroit, Michigan on May 25, 2018. Michigan saw a 62 percent rise in out-of-hospital deaths this year compared to 2019. Raymond Boyd/Getty