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ST. LOUIS, Mo. – People with medical problems are too afraid to go to hospital emergency rooms and are delaying their visits. They’re afraid of catching COVID-19.

That is has been leading to serious complications and in some cases death. The number of daily patients arriving at the Barnes-Jewish Emergency Room has dropped from about 240 people a day to as few as a 160.

It’s all about fear according to Dr. Robert Poirier. He’s the Washington University Chief of the Barnes-Jewish hospital Emergency Department. Dr. Poirier said, “We know people are afraid.”

Dr. Robert Poirier says St. Louisans are seeing television news reports that show the dire and chaotic conditions in New York hospitals. The doctor said that’s not what’s happening in St. Louis. There have been no transmissions of the disease in the emergency room.

People are screened before they enter and they are kept separate from COVID 19 patients. Conditions are clean, health safety is the priority. If sick people are too afraid and put off going to the E.R. it could cost them their lives.

“We’re seeing people come in three days, seven days later after a heart attack or stroke and by then it can be too late for us to prevent long term complications and sometimes even death,” said Dr. Poirier.

The doctor has seen ten cases where fear and delay lead to serious complications and in two of those cases the patients died.

Dr. Joel Koenig is a pediatrician at Town and County Pediatrics. He said, “Some of them (parents) are concerned to get out and risk unnecessary exposure.”

Dr. Koenig said parents are skipping well visits for their children. His office is located behind Missouri Baptist Hospital which requires people to be screened before entering the doctors building. Plus, Dr. Koenig separates sick children from well kids. He said, “We see well kids only in the morning and then sick kids in the afternoon. I think every step possible is being taken.”

Dr. Koenig is worried youngsters will miss their vaccines and get very sick. He added, “The last thing we need for there to be another measle outbreak with kids be unvaccinated because of this virus.”

The number of well visits are down by about 65% at Dr. Koenig’s office. That’s potentially a lot of kids missing important vaccines.