Background and aim: New York City (NYC) is an epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Proper triage of patients with possible COVID-19 via chief complaint is critical but not fully optimized. This study aimed to investigate the association between presentation by chief complaints and COVID-19 status. Methods: We retrospectively analyzed adult emergency department (ED) patient visits from five different NYC hospital campuses from March 1, 2020 to May 13, 2020 of patients who underwent nasopharyngeal COVID-19 RT-PCR testing. The positive and negative COVID-19 cohorts were then assessed for different chief complaints obtained from structured triage data. Sub-analysis was performed for patients older than 65 and within chief complaints with high mortality. Results: Of 11,992 ED patient visits who received COVID-19 testing, 6524/11992 (54.4%) were COVID-19 positive. 73.5% of fever, 67.7% of shortness of breath, and 65% of cough had COVID-19, but others included 57.5% of weakness/fall/altered mental status, 55.5% of glycemic control, and 51.4% of gastrointestinal symptoms. In patients over 65, 76.7% of diarrhea, 73.7% of fatigue, and 69.3% of weakness had COVID-19. 45.5% of dehydration, 40.5% of altered mental status, 27% of fall, and 24.6% of hyperglycemia patients experienced mortality. Conclusion: A novel high risk COVID-19 patient population was identified from chief complaint data, which is different from current suggested CDC guidelines, and may help triage systems to better isolate COVID-19 patients. Older patients with COVID-19 infection presented with more atypical complaints warranting special consideration. COVID-19 was associated with higher mortality in a unique group of complaints also warranting special consideration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)520-524
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
StatePublished - Aug 2021


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