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Open Access Publications from the University of California

First Do No Harm With COVID-19: Corona Collateral Damage Syndrome


Language matters and communication has consequences, sometimes unforseen.  During the Covid-19 public health emergency, public health and elected leaders messaged "Stay at Home" to encourage social distancing to reduce viral transmission. The message in combination with a widespread public fear of acquiring Covid-19 at hospital emergency rooms, resulted in a steep decline in ER visits, even for time sensitive conditions. The Corona Collateral Damage Syndrome is described. A public health messaging course correction is suggested to encourage people with emergencies to come to the emergency room for care.

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