ST. LOUIS – New research shows that St. Louis Children’s Hospital noticed a spike in treating children for gun injuries at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the previous five pre-pandemic years.
The findings are based on a study released by the Journal of Pediatric Surgery last November in tandem with Washington University and University of Missouri research teams.
According to the study, St. Louis Children’s Hospital treated 672 patients from March 2015 to March 2022. Among those, 413 children were treated in the five years prior to the pandemic (March 2015 – Feb. 2020) and 259 children were treated during the first two years of the pandemic (March 2020 – Feb. 2022).
In simplified rates, that means SLCH treated about 82 children for gun injuries per year in pre-pandemic times as opposed to around 130 children for gun injuries per year during the height of the pandemic. That means the hospital’s treatment for children gun injuries increased by roughly 58% per year.
Data also found that pediatric firearm injury rates increased significantly during three spikes in COVID-19 deaths in the St. Louis region. Some of the highest months that peaked with pediatric firearm assaults were Jan. 2020 (during the initial pandemic stages), Dec. 2020 (second spike in COVID-19 cases) and March 2022 (Omicron variant stage).
Researchers say a few pandemic-related factors might be linked to the spike in gun injuries. The study notes trends of increased gun purchasing, decreased youth supervision and decreased unintentional shootings around the St. Louis area as the pandemic progressed.
“As future COVID-19 surges are likely to occur, our findings highlight the need for increased violence-intervention services, particularly amongst marginalized communities more likely to be seriously affected by firearm violence,” said the study.
The St. Louis findings come as one national study last year reported a spike in children firearm-related deaths since 2020.