Heart Attack vs COVID-19 Fear: Half of Hispanics, Blacks Would Avoid Hospital for Cardiac Symptoms

July 30, 2020

Fear of contracting COVID-19 would keep more than half of Hispanics and Blacks experiencing heart attack/stroke symptoms from going to a hospital.

Fear of exposure to COVID-19 would keep approximately half of Hispanic and Black Americans from going to a hospital if experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, according to results of a recent online American Heart Association survey conducted by the Harris poll.

The findings sharply reflect what the COVID-19 crisis is exposing as an epidemic in its own right--the vast inequities in US healthcare access and delivery. They are even more concerning as US infections continue to rise in more than 40 states and to spike dangerously in Florida, Texas, and California.

The survey found that 55% of Hispanics would be scared to go to the hospital with symptoms of heart attack or stroke because they could potentially be infected with SARS-CoV2; 41% would stay home under these conditions rather than risk getting infected at a hospital.

Response was similar among Black Americans, with 45% saying fear of contracting COVID-19 at a hospital would prevent them from seeking care for symptoms of a heart attack or stroke and one-third (33%) saying they would prefer to stay home and avoid the risk of becoming infected at a hospital.

Less than half of whites surveyed (40%) said fear of COVID-19 would keep them from getting emergency care for stroke or MI and just 24% would trade the risk of staying at home for that of becoming infected.

“This finding is yet another challenge for Black and Hispanic communities, who are more likely to have underlying health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes and dying of COVID-19 at disproportionately high rates,” said Rafael Ortiz, MD, American Heart Association volunteer medical expert and Chief of Neuro-Endovascular Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, in New York, in an AHA press release. "Health care professionals know what to do even when things seem chaotic, and emergency departments have made plans behind the scenes to keep patients and healthcare workers safe even during a pandemic.”

"The hospital remains the safest place to be if there’s a heart attack, stroke or other medical emergency," reads a description on the AHA's new "Don't Die of Doubt" website. Don't Die of Doubt is a public education and awareness campaign AHA is deploying, particularly in Black and Hispanic communities, to remind Americans that delaying or avoiding emergency care can be fatal. Among the materials is a list of "5 reasons hospitals are safe for heart, stroke emergencies -- even in a pandemic."

This survey was conducted online in the US between May 29 - June 2, 2020 among 2050 adults (aged 18 and over) by The Harris Poll. Results were weighted for age within gender, region, race/ethnicity, household income, education, employment, marital status and size of household where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

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