Officials in a New Jersey town say a spike in “dead on arrival” calls could be linked to a rise in sick residents who are afraid to go to the hospital for treatment due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Between early March and early May, police in Manchester Township said they logged an 81% increase of D.O.A. calls compared to the same time last year. D.O.A. refers to a death discovered by a loved one or during a well-being check. Authorities said many of the victims had pre-existing ailments.
“They’re sitting home with their symptoms or short of breath because they’re afraid to come to the office,” Dr. James Orlando, an interventional cardiologist, told NBC10. “They’re afraid to come to the hospital because they’re afraid of the virus.”
Authorities said there’s also been a concerning number of incidents in Manchester Township in which a patient who had cardiac or stroke symptoms refused to go to the hospital after an EMT arrived, even when encouraged to do so.
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“It’s more dangerous to stay home when you have cardiac and stroke-related,” Manchester Township Police Chief Lisa Parker said. “You really need to go to the hospital.”
Dr. Orlando believes some of the fears stemmed from initial messaging at the start of the pandemic.
“I think it was the doctors that sort of told people you need to stay home,” Dr. Orlando said. “You need to socially distance but now I think it has to be the doctors to tell the patients that, ‘Hey, it’s okay to come out. If you’re not feeling well, we have to see you. We can help.’”
Officials are trying to use various channels to get that message across to residents of Manchester Township’s numerous 55 and over communities.
“A lot of our residents, some are connected to the internet,” Manchester Township Mayor Ken Palmer said. “Some do Facebook. Some watch the news but a lot of them are older and not tech-savvy so the information is hard to get out to them.”
Authorities are urging residents to make different decisions by putting their health ahead of fears.