Activity and the incidence of emergencies: Evidence from daily data at the onset of a pandemic

This study examines the effect of social and economic activity on emergency room care utilization. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic emergency non-respiratory visits dramatically dropped in many countries around the globe. Using daily level data of all public healthcare facilities in Chile with novel mobility data we show that the crisis-induced changes in mobility patterns explain a large portion of the 50 per-cent drop in non-respiratory emergency room visits in the country. Our results reveal that an important reason for the dramatic drop in non-COVID-19 utilization of emergency care is the lower incidence of emergencies. We also provide evidence that the lower emergency department utilization did not cause higher mortality. These results suggest that measures restricting mobility during a public health crisis may have the unexpected benefit for public health of freeing up healthcare resources.

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