Characterizing pediatric emergency department visits during the COVID-19 pandemic

For the US Acute Care Solutions Research Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Objective: We determine how pediatric emergency department (ED) visits changed during the COVID-19 pandemic in a large sample of U.S. EDs. Methods: Using retrospective data from January–June 2020, compared to a similar 2019 period, we calculated weekly 2020–2019 ratios of Non-COVID-19 ED visits for adults and children (age 18 years or less) by age range. Outcomes were pediatric ED visit rates before and after the onset of pandemic, by age, disposition, and diagnosis. Results: We included data from 2,213,828 visits to 144 EDs and 4 urgent care centers in 18 U.S. states, including 7 EDs in children's hospitals. During the pandemic period, adult non-COVID-19 visits declined to 60% of 2019 volumes and then partially recovered but remained below 2019 levels through June 2020. Pediatric visits declined even more sharply, with peak declines through the week of April 15 of 74% for children age < 10 years and 67% for 14–17 year. Visits recovered by June to 72% for children age 14–17, but to only 50% of 2019 levels for children < age 10 years. Declines were seen across all ED types and locations, and across all diagnoses, with an especially sharp decline in non-COVID-19 communicable diseases. During the pandemic period, there was 22% decline in common serious pediatric conditions, including appendicitis. Conclusion: Pediatric ED visits fell more sharply than adult ED visits during the COVID-19 pandemic, and remained depressed through June 2020, especially for younger children. Declines were also seen for serious conditions, suggesting that parents may have avoided necessary care for their children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-204
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
StatePublished - Mar 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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