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Hospitals Face a Dual Public Health Crisis: Continued Gun Violence and COVID-19


As America’s medical system grapples with limited resources in response to COVID-19, doctors are being forced to make hard decisions about who can receive treatment for medical emergencies. As Dr. Elinore Kaufman, a surgical critical care fellow working in one Philadelphia hospital wrote in the New York Times:

“Firearm injuries are calamitous for the more than 120,000 people shot each year in the United States and their families. But the consequences for our health system are even more dire as we fight the coronavirus.

We need I.C.U. beds, we need ventilators, we need personnel to care for the wave of Covid-19 patients. But gunshot victims are now fighting for space and resources inside America’s overcrowded I.C.U.s.”

Philadelphia is just one city that has continued to experience daily gun violence during the pandemic. On Monday evening, 5 people were shot and wounded, including a 1-year-old boy, in North Philadelphia. In Baltimore, where three men were shot and wounded just yesterday, local officials are asking community members for help in stopping the shootings. 

The long term impacts of the pandemic and social distancing on gun violence are still to be seen, but one thing is clear: the continuing public health crisis of gun violence, especially in cities, only puts further strain on a medical system struggling to keep up with incoming COVID-19 cases.

Research has shown that community-based gun violence prevention and intervention programs are effective at reducing gun deaths and injuries in communities that are disproportionately impacted by gun violence. As the shootings continue, local intervention programs have proven to still be essential and workers have adapted their strategies in recent times to continue helping their communities hit hardest by gun violence. It’s imperative these programs continue to receive support to prevent gun violence and lessen the burden on America’s hospitals.

In addition to gun violence happening in cities, domestic violence hotlines across the country are seeing upticks in calls, as are suicide prevention hotlines. And with more kids and teens at home, unsecured guns are raising concerns about increases in unintentional shootings and gun suicides. 

If you’re interested in learning more about gun violence during this time, please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or to request an interview with a policy expert.