CAMDEN, NJ — A 12% fall in ambulance calls throughout Camden County in April has alarmed local officials, who correlate the dip in hospital visits to fears over contracting COVID-19.
“Lots of folks with non-COVID-19 symptoms are not going to the hospital and are not going to the doctor,” Freeholder Director Lou Cappelli said Tuesday in a virtual press briefing at Camden County College’s Blackwood campus.
Cappelli said failure to seek medical attention has already led to a number of avoidable complications for residents, such as heart attacks and strokes.
“There are protocols in place to help you from being infected,” he ensured residents. “[There have] already been too many stories of folks not calling when they have these symptoms and having some serious problems at home and actually dying at home.”
The call to take heed came as the county confirmed 22 new coronavirus cases (4,294 total), and 12 additional deaths (230). The county has provided more details on its website.
In a more positive trend, Cappelli said 97.4% of the individuals diagnosed with the virus are recovering at home or have already recovered, and 11% have needed hospitalization.
Virtua Health announced last week a notable case of “medical distancing” at its five hospitals and 280 other health care locations — including that in Camden City. It defined the phrase as the significant decrease in patient volume for medical conditions outside the coronavirus.
“This trend appears to be widespread, and it is certainly cause for concern. We can understand that people may be avoiding health care settings and services for fear of exposure to the coronavirus, but delaying medical care can have considerable, lasting consequences,” said Reginald Blaber, executive vice president and chief clinical officer.
Since May is Stroke Month, Cooper Hospital officials specifically pointed to resources they have on hand to deal with the medical emergency despite the ongoing outbreak.
“[Cooper’s Comprehensive Stroke Center] certification means that we have undergone rigorous scrutiny and met the highest standards for the full spectrum of stroke care, from the speed with which patients receive acute stroke therapies to the appropriateness of post discharge care,” said Dr. Tudor Jovin, Cooper Neurological Institute Chairman and Chief of Neurology.
“Even at the time when all health care systems are strained to the maximum, Cooper has instituted measures to ensure that the highest level of stroke care is available and provided by stroke experts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he added.