As coronavirus cases continue to climb in the D.C. area, local emergency rooms are seeing dramatically fewer patients than they did one year ago.
Experts say it could be because people are nervous to visit a hospital during a pandemic.
Reports obtained by the News4 I-Team show the number of emergency patients is plummeting at three hospitals: Shady Grove Medical Center, Sibley Memorial Hospital and Virginia Hospital Center.
In April 2019, there were 7,700 emergency department visits at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center in Rockville, Maryland. That number dropped to 3,500 this April.
Sibley Memorial Hospital in D.C. saw 3,500 visits to its emergency room last April. There were less than 2,000 in April 2020.
A similar decline in visits happened at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Virginia. More than 5,400 people went to the emergency room there in April 2019 and just 3,071 went in April of this year.
Local hospital administrators have taken steps to protect emergency rooms from the coronavirus, erecting tents and screening areas outdoors to check and test respiratory patients.
Bob Atlas, the head of the Maryland Hospital Association, told News4 the ERs are safe.
"There's really no risk for people going to a hospital. The emergency rooms are actually pretty lightly populated right now, and so the care is available and it is safe," Atlas said.
Health officials in Washington, D.C., have said that some people who need urgent medical care for issues including strokes and heart attacks may not have gone to the ER or doctor's office out of fear of catching coronavirus. But Mayor Muriel Bowser urged people to get immediate treatment.