Silver linings: Amidst a traumatic pandemic, trauma admissions decrease at Morristown hospital

Morristown Medical Center. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morristown Medical Center. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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You have to look hard for silver linings in this pandemic. But this may qualify:

Trauma admissions at Morristown Medical Center’s emergency department were down by 50 percent over the long Memorial Day weekend, compared with last year’s holiday.

“We attribute the decrease in volume to the COVID-19 quarantine,” and its corresponding decrease in activities and driving, said hospital spokesperson Karen Zatorski.

Comparing March/April of 2020 to March/April of last year, the hospital reports these decreases:

  • Motor vehicle crashes, 57 percent
  • Falls, 54 percent
  • Pedestrian trauma, 50 percent
  • Motorcycle crashes, 22 percent

It remains to be seen whether these trends continue as New Jersey gradually reopens. Summer tends to be the busiest time for trauma admissions, Zatorski said.

Statewide, traffic deaths in April fell to their lowest level in more than a half century, according to State Police statistics. Only 26 fatalities were reported, at a time when much of the population was staying home because of the pandemic.

April traffic was down by more than 60 percent on both the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike,  according to NJ.com, which reported fatal crashes for the year in New Jersey are down by 12 percent from the same period in 2019.

Gov. Phil Murphy “strongly discouraged” night travel starting on March 16, 2020; days later he banned all nonessential travel.  On March 29, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory urging residents of the tri-state area to “refrain from non-essential domestic travel” for 14 days.

Traffic accidents and fatalities in California fell by half during the first three weeks of sheltering-in-place there, according to a University of California-Davis study, and drowning deaths in California dropped by 80 percent, according to nonprofit Stop Drowning Now.

Earlier this month, CBS News reported that at least 20 states have recorded notable drops in fatal crashes during the pandemic.  California freeways have seen an 84 percent decrease, with large decreases also in Michigan (67 percent) and Illinois (57 percent).

Traffic fatalities have risen in Louisiana, Minnesota and Oklahoma, said the network, citing a nationwide 30 percent spike in the rate of motorists exceeding 100 mph.

While declining traffic deaths are good news for first responders, they have raised concerns with the United Network for Organ Sharing, which gets about one-third of organs for transplants from accidents, reported U.S. News & World Report.

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