Effect of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic on the U.S. Emergency Medical Services System: A Preliminary Report

E. Brooke Lerner, Craig D. Newgard, N. Clay Mann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Background: Our objective was to quantify trends in emergency medical services (EMS) incidents as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the United States and to determine if there was an increase in EMS-attended deaths. Methods: We conducted a 3-year comparative retrospective cohort analysis of data from the National EMS Information System. Data were included if care was provided between the 40th and 21st weeks of the next year and compared over 3 years. We included incidents identified through 9-1-1 where patient contact was made. The total number of EMS incidents per week was used as the denominator to calculate the rate of patient deaths and possible injury. We assessed for temporal and seasonal trends. Results: Starting in the 10th week of 2020 there was a decrease in the number of EMS activations in the United States compared to the prior weeks and the same time period in previous years. The number of activations between week 10 and week 16 decreased by 140,292 or 26.1%. The portion of EMS activations reporting a patient disposition of death nearly doubled between the 11th and 15th weeks of 2020 (1.49%–2.77% of all activations). The number of EMS activations documenting a possible injury decreased from 18.43% to 15.27% between weeks 10 and 13. Conclusion: We found that early in the COVID-19 outbreak there was a significant decrease in the number of EMS responses across the United States. Simultaneously the rate of EMS-attended death doubled, while the rate of injuries decreased.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)693-699
Number of pages7
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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