Rising incidence of interpersonal violence in Pennsylvania during COVID-19 stay-at home order

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Surgery (United States)


Background: The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic and associated policies have had important downstream consequences for individuals, communities, and the healthcare system, and they appear to have been accompanied by rising interpersonal violence. The objective of this study was to evaluate the incidence of injuries owing to interpersonal violence after implementation of a statewide stay-at-home order in Pennsylvania in March 2020. Methods: Using the Pennsylvania Trauma Outcome Study registry, we conducted a retrospective cohort study of patients with gunshot wounds, stab wounds, and blunt assault-related injuries attributable to interpersonal violence treated at Pennsylvania trauma centers from March 16 to July 31 of 2018, 2019, and 2020. Results: There were fewer total trauma admissions in 2020 (17,489) vs 2018 (19,290) and 2019 (19,561). Gunshot wounds increased in 2020 to 737 vs 647 for 2019 and 565 for 2018 (P = .028), whereas blunt assault injuries decreased (P = .03). In all time periods, interpersonal violence primarily impacted urban counties. African American men were predominantly affected by gunshot wounds and stab wounds, whereas Caucasian men were predominantly affected by blunt assault injuries. There were more patients with substance abuse disorders and positive drug screens during coronavirus disease than in comparison periods: (stab wound population 52.3% vs 33.9% vs 45.9%, coronavirus disease era vs 2018 vs 2019, respectively P = .0001), (blunt assault injury population 41.4% vs 33.1% vs 33.5%, coronavirus disease era vs 2018 vs 2019, respectively P < .0001). There was no correlation between the incidence of interpersonal violence and coronavirus disease 2019 rates at the county level. Conclusion: The implementation of a stay-at-home order was accompanied by rising incidence of gunshot and stab wound injuries in Pennsylvania. Preparedness for future resurgences of coronavirus disease 2019 and other pandemics calls for plans to address injury prevention, recidivism, and access to mental health and substance abuse prevention services.



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