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Duluth hospital forms new partnership as ER visits drop during pandemic

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DULUTH, MN -- New data from the American Heart Association shows that, nationwide, emergency room visits were down 42% this April compared to the same time last year.

Locally, St. Luke's Hospital is right on par.

This April, ER trips were down 44% compared to last April, according to St. Luke's spokespeople.

While numbers for June show a slight rebound, it was still about 500 visits below last year.

Medical professionals say that number is very concerning.

Doctors are blaming the drop in ER visits on COVID-19, and people wondering if it's safe to visit a hospital or call an ambulance amid the pandemic.

"No matter what fears you may have of COVID-19 if you have any signs or symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, we really want people to call 911 to go to the emergency room," said Briana Johnson, Director of Development, American Heart Association.

Which is why the American Heart Association and St. Luke's announced a new campaign Thursday called "Don't Die of Doubt."

"This is really to remind people to take care of their heart, and if they have symptoms or concerns about symptoms, don't hesitate to seek medical care," said Dr. Mary Boylan, St. Luke's Heart Surgeon.

Dr. Boylan said when the state had a high rise in COVID-19 cases in June, their number of acute ER patients dropped off.

"For a couple of weeks, they didn't come in and that was really scary to me. that meant that they were not getting attention, they were afraid to get attention and we just can't let that slide," said Boylan.

This is why officials from both organizations are asking people to get help when they need it, citing a large amount of safety protocols inside hospitals.

"Even if you were to come down with the coronavirus at some point, this is the safest place to be. Whether that's what you have or if you have a heart attack or stroke, if you have a heart attack or stroke time is critical. You can't waste that time sitting at home and wondering and doubting," said Johnson.

For more information on the campaign, and community resources click here.

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Ryan Compeau

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