ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- On a typical day before the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors in the Barnes-Jewish emergency room would see about 240 patients. Now, they’re seeing 160 to 180 each day.

Dr. Robert Poirier, Chief of the Barnes-Jewish emergency room, said visits have dropped by about a third because many of the people who should be going to the ER are not due to concerns about contracting the novel coronavirus.

“It seems people are afraid to come to the emergency department now because they think they will be exposed and catch COVID-19 if they're not coming in for those symptoms,” he said.

Poirier, who is also a Washington University Emergency Medicine physician, said each day, about 60 patients arrive with COVID-19 symptoms.

But others who need emergency treatment are often waiting too long before deciding to come to the ER.

“People are dying at home. People are dying shortly after they arrive because they've waited too long, or they have permanent disability,” he said. “Especially if they had a stroke or a heart attack a few days previous and were afraid to come into the hospital to get treated.”

Poirier said if they're notified of possible COVID-19 symptoms from a patient on their way to the hospital, the person is taken in through a seperate entrance.

He said with 70 beds in the ER, they can protect those who don't have the novel coronavirus.

“People are just too afraid to come in and they’re waiting to see. Waiting days to see if it would get better, and it’s not,” he said. “If you're having major new symptoms you need to come in and get it checked out. Don't be afraid.”

Poirier said currently, the ER is very controlled, not chaotic and they have enough staff to treat patients appropriately.

Copyright 2020 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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