Sudden cardiac-arrest deaths, mental health emergencies, and domestic disturbances are up during the pandemic lockdown, according to local first responders.
Calls for symptoms of heart problems and strokes are down, reflecting unfounded fears about the safety of ambulances and hospitals, Adams Regional Emergency Services Chief Eric Zaney said.
As a result, patients are in worse shape when an ambulance is finally called, he said.
“We’re doing CPR more often,” Zaney said.
Rather than being afraid, people should understand that ambulances are thoroughly fogged with disinfectant after transporting any suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients, Zaney said.
All of his employees use protective equipment and are in good health, he said.
“We’re probably the safest people to have interaction with,” Zaney said.
Emergency medical calls to 911 of all types are down by about 25 percent versus a year ago, Zaney said, but refusals of transport after ambulances arrive are up by 12 percent. Refusals generally result in patients’ insurance not covering the call, he said.
Meanwhile, mental health calls are up, probably due to “increased depression,” Zaney said.
People aren’t “able to get out and interact with friends and family” or enjoy other “stress relievers” such as going to a restaurant or gym, he said.
Suicide attempts have increased, often with “younger” people involved, Zaney said. The overall increase for mental health, overdose, and suicide calls is roughly 10 to 15 percent versus a year ago, he said.
Suicides are up slightly at seven so far this year, according to Adams County Coroner Patricia Felix, but she said she sees no evidence of a link to the lockdown. Fatal drug overdoses are at the normal level, she said.
Domestic issues rise
In Gettysburg, domestic incidents jumped from five in March 2019 to 15 in March 2020, borough Police Chief Robert Glenny said.
Domestic disturbance calls covered by state police in Adams County have also climbed. Totals were 51 in April this year, up from 37 in April last year.
Factors include “cabin fever, stress from lifestyle changes or many other reasons,” said Trooper Megan Ammerman, who noted “there are many programs and support for victims to reach out for help.”
In Littlestown, domestic calls are up about 10 percent, but most are limited to verbal conflict, borough Police Chief Charles Kellar said.
“We kind of expected” an increase, “because everybody’s home,” he said.
“People are stressed out” because of being confined in close quarters, worrying they or a loved one might catch the virus, and “not knowing when this is going to end,” Kellar said.
“A lot of people aren’t making any money” and are worrying about “how, financially, they’re going to survive,” he said.
In addition, parents are also trying to be teachers as kids receive online education at home, Kellar said.
Mental health calls are at usual levels, he said.
Such calls are up somewhat in Gettysburg, as are calls of disputes among neighbors, borough Police Chief Robert Glenny said.
Overdose calls are also slightly ahead of normal, which is “concerning,” he said.
“Folks who are addicted are still finding drugs,” and police are continuing to work against that trend, Glenny said.
State police are covering far fewer crashes in Adams, with the April total at 41 this year versus 83 in 2019.
“With significantly less vehicles on the road, the number or crashes have drastically declined. We have been and always will enforce the vehicle code no matter the circumstances in Pennsylvania. Just because there are less vehicles on the road, does not make it free reign to drive carelessly or recklessly,” Trooper Megan Ammerman said.
In Gettysburg, crashes totaled 14 in March last year versus seven in March this year, Glenny said.
Citations and crashes are down because “you don’t have the traffic,” said Kellar, who also noted a decline in calls for service of all types “because you don’t have the people out.”
Kellar, who is also Littlestown’s borough manager, expressed concern because municipalities’ share of fuel taxes, used to maintain roads, will plummet next year due to low gasoline sales.
Drunk driving cases were essentially unchanged in Adams, with 45 in April last year and 44 this year, but the regional view was different. For all five counties of state police Troop H, DUI arrests fell from 186 between early February and early March this year to 112 between early March and early April.
Troop H, for which Ammerman is public information officer, includes Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, Dauphin, and Perry counties.
Though calls of many types are down, “we’re seeing more activity” as weather improves and people become more “sick of staying home,” Glenny said.
Some of that activity is criminal, said Glenny, who cited a recent surge in thefts from parked cars and urged the public to lock vehicle doors.
Officers are continuing to conduct downtown foot patrols out of concern that closed businesses could be attractive targets for burglars, he said
The borough extended its nighttime curfew to include adults not engaged in essential activities, but the only recent case involved juveniles, Glenny said.
No arrests have occurred as a result of the state’s stay-at-home order, except in connection with drunk driving or other arrests that would have occurred anyway, he said.
A complaint was received of a business operating despite the state closure order, but it proved to be an authorized business, Glenny said.
As for mask use, it will be up to businesses to make complaints, which will be handled as trespassing cases if need be, Glenny said.
Other increasing activity would be unremarkable if not for the pandemic.
More pedestrians and vehicles appear to be out and about in the borough, said Glenny, who also described Gettysburg National Military Park as being “packed” last weekend.