Is COVID-19 Lockdown Preventing Burn Victims From Seeking Treatment?
Nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States continues to take unprecedented measures to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. Stay-at-home orders and social distancing mandates have impacted business and healthcare operations nationwide, significantly limiting service availability and impeding people’s ability to access them. In Pennsylvania, the first two coronavirus cases were confirmed on March 6th, and by March 25th, stay-at-home orders had been implemented in 10 counties, including Lehigh. Our goal was to determine what impact, if any, the lockdown had on local burn victims following an injury.
Utilizing data spanning January 1st, 2010 to June 30, 2020, we examined admissions to the Lehigh Valley Hospital Network Burn Center in Allentown, PA. A total of 7,264 cases were analyzed, the majority of which were thermal burns (50.58%) and scalds (35.21%). The sample size for post-COVID-19 admissions was low (206 cases between March 1st and June 30th, 2020), which means the data is skewed and additional analysis needs to be done to improve reliability. Nevertheless, our findings indicate that burn victims’ decision to seek treatment was effectively impacted by stay-at-home orders.
Overall, the average burn severity in patients with non-fatal injuries was higher after March 1st, 2020, suggesting that victims with less severe injuries were less inclined to seek treatment. Burn severity was lower among patients whose injuries were fatal, though additional research and analysis is needed to draw solid conclusions, including examining time of year and comparing monthly averages for March through June only. Additionally, patients’ length of stay increased after lockdown, and while more qualitative research needs to be done, this could be due to a lack of beds.
A research article published in Burns Open examined the impact of COVID-19 lockdown mandates on a regional burn center in North Carolina. It found that stay-at-home orders led to a rise in pediatric burn admissions, with a 28% increase in school-aged children in 2020 (and a 10% decrease in all other populations) when compared with historical cohort data from 2019. While the study authors acknowledge that their data and analysis may not be applicable to all burn centers, they suggest that COVID-19 stay-at-home orders may lead to a significantly increased risk of burn injuries to children. This may be especially true for children in at-risk populations, as lockdown mandates remove supervision and safety measures provided by school teachers, coaches, and counselors.
President of Board for the Burn Prevention Network