Pediatric emergency care in New York City during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown and reopening periods

Tian Liang, Haamid S. Chamdawala, Ee Tein Tay, Jennifer Chao, Muhammad Waseem, Horton Lee, David Mortel, Konstantinos Agoritsas, Hugo O. Teo, James A. Meltzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: New York City (NYC) is home to the largest public healthcare system in the United States and was an early epicenter of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections. This system serves as the safety net for underserved and marginalized communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Prior studies reported substantial declines in pediatric emergency department (ED) volume during the initial pandemic surge, but few describe the ongoing impact of COVID-19 throughout the year. We evaluated the characteristics of pediatric ED visits to NYC public hospitals during the pandemic lockdown and reopening periods of 2020 compared to the prior year. Methods: Retrospective cross-sectional analysis of pediatric ED visits from 11 NYC public hospitals from January 2019–December 2020. Visit demographics, throughput times, and diagnosis information during the early (3/7/20–6/7/20) and late (6/8/20–12/31/20) pandemic periods coinciding with the New York State of emergency declaration (3/7/20) and the first reopening date (6/7/20) were compared to similar time periods in 2019. Findings were correlated with key pandemic shutdown and reopening events. Results: There was a 47% decrease in ED volume in 2020 compared to 2019 (125,649 versus 238,024 visits). After reopening orders began in June 2020, volumes increased but peaked at <60% of 2019 volumes. Admission rates, triage acuity, and risk of presenting with a serious medical illness were significantly higher in 2020 versus 2019 (P < 0.001). Time-to-provider times decreased however provider-to-disposition times increased during the pandemic (P < 0.001). Infectious and asthma diagnoses declined >70% during the pandemic in contrast to the year prior. After reopening periods began, penetrating traumatic injuries significantly increased compared to 2019 [+34%, Relative Risk: 3.2 (2.6, 3.8)]. Conclusions: NYC public hospitals experienced a sharp decrease in pediatric volume but an increase in patient acuity during both the initial pandemic surge and through the reopening periods. As COVID-19 variants emerge, the threat of the current pandemic expanding remains. Understanding its influence on pediatric ED utilization can optimize resource allocation and ensure equitable care for future surge events.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-144
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
StatePublished - Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • Children
  • Emergency
  • New York City
  • Public health


Dive into the research topics of 'Pediatric emergency care in New York City during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown and reopening periods'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this