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Fact Check: Is it Safe to Seek Medical Treatment at the Hospital?

July 16, 2020 / CBS News
Normal ECG line representing claims that are true

News outlets all across the country are reporting that people have cancelled or delayed medical appointments or emergency trips to the hospital because they are afraid of catching COVID-19. However, officials have repeatedly assured the public that hospitals are safe and putting off needed treatment is dangerous.

CLAIM: Due to fears over COVID-19, many people have avoided hospitals and other healthcare facilities, even when they need care. Doctors are telling the public it’s safe to come back, according to CBS News.

FACT:

This is true. Across the nation, healthcare professionals have been concerned for months that COVID-19 fears are keeping people from visiting their doctors or going to the hospital for the testing and treatments they need. The consequences have been severe, and in many cases fatal.

As the Washington Post recently reported:

In many cases, experts said, patients suffered through cardiac events, strokes, hyperglycemia and other health difficulties at home, likely fearful of seeking care in hospitals where large numbers of people suffering from COVID-19 were receiving treatment.

During the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, many hospitals were ordered to postpone elective procedures to preserve hospital beds and protective equipment to deal with the pandemix. Hospital emergency departments, however, remained open. And here in Colorado, state orders against elective procedures were lifted in late April.

Even during the hold on elective surgeries, public safety officials urged people to seek emergency medical treatment if needed. And since late April, hospital officials have pledged to provide a safe environment for the return of so-called elective procedures, which are often needed to treat life-threatening conditions such as cancer or heart disease.

As Dr. Peter Walinsky, senior director of cardiac and vascular surgery at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs, recently told TV station KOAA News 5, the data says “don’t wait” to seek medical attention:

It’s a huge mistake [to wait] because the hospital is a very safe place to be. Patients should have absolutely no qualms about coming to the hospital if they think that they have something wrong. It should be like COVID doesn’t exist as far as that goes.

Or as the American Heart Association says:

Don’t die of doubt. Hospitals are still the safest place for you to be when medical emergencies strike.

Fact: In fact, because of their cleaning protocols and personal protective equipment, hospitals and clinics might actually be safer than other public areas. A recent evaluation of antibody testing results showed that fewer health care workers have been exposed to COVID-19 than members of the general public.

Antibody Tests Show UCHealth Workers Have Lower COVID-19 Infection Rates Than General Public (CBS4 Denver)