Pediatric emergency department utilization during the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City.

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This study describes the utilization of a pediatric emergency department (ED) during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the initial U.S. epicenter, including the impact on visit acuity and incidences of common diagnoses.We performed an observational retrospective review of patients younger than 18 years old seen in a New York City pediatric ED from March 7th to May 6th 2020, and during the same time period in 2018 and 2019. Demographics, visit details, diagnoses, and dispositions were compared. Validated algorithms were utilized to create practical diagnosis groupings and to determine the probability of a visit requiring emergent evaluation.ED visits during the pandemic decreased by 56% to an average daily census of 67 patients, from an anticipated 152. Admission rates rose from 13.3% to 17.4% (p<0.001), and the proportion of triage Emergency Severity Index level 1 and 2 patients increased by 23.7% (p<0.001). Non-emergent visits dropped from 32.3% to 27.5% (p<0.001). Several common, often low-acuity diagnoses saw disproportionate reductions in visits including headache, chest pain, and minor injuries. Concerningly, visits for suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, or self-harm increased by 100% (p<0.001) and visits for evaluating abuse or neglect decreased by 89% (p=0.01).Pediatric ED utilization substantially deceased during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City, but left relatively higher patient acuity. Healthcare systems in early epicenters must also prepare for the disproportionate impact a pandemic has on the most vulnerable pediatric patients, particularly those at risk for self-harm or abuse.

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Authors: William C Sokoloff, William I Krief, Kimberly A Giusto, Tasnima Mohaimin, Cole Murphy-Hockett, Joshua Rocker, Kristy A Williamson