UC Irvine researchers led a study that shows that gunshot and knife wounds increased during the COVID-19 pandemic in Southern California, but injuries from traffic crashes were down.
UCI researchers reviewed 20,450 trauma patients who were treated at 11 hospitals across seven counties. The study, which the researchers say is the first large-scale analysis of the stay-at-home orders on trauma treatment, was published online in the Journal of Trauma & Acute Care Surgery.
“Our analysis identified a 21% increase in rates of penetrating trauma and a 24% increase in rates of gunshot wounds, but no significant increase in rates of suicide attempts or domestic violence that required trauma or critical care in the period after California’s stay-at-home order was issued in March 2020,” said UCI Dr. Jeffry Nahmias.
Penetrating trauma is when a patient’s skin is pierced by an object such as a bullet or knife.
“One potential explanation for this increase in penetrating trauma is a rise in economic and psychological pressures experienced during the pandemic,” Nahmias said, acknowledging that the state’s unemployment rate rose to 16% during 2020.
The researchers said the rise in these types of trauma sparked a “second pandemic.”
The surgeon said other studies across the country indicated a boost in traumatic injuries stemming from suicide attempts and domestic violence, but added that the UCI study did not reflect that.
“These remain critical public health concerns, but our multi-center analysis did not bear out an increase, however, this study only captures the most violent incidents that would be seen at a major trauma center,” Nahmias said.