Many Georgians delaying medical care for fear of catching COVID-19

ATLANTA — Primary care doctors across the metro say they are seeing an alarming trend as the number of Delta variant cases continues to grow: more Georgians are reluctant to get medical care.

This trend isn’t just among the most susceptible older Georgians, Channel 2 investigative reporter Ashli Lincoln found that this trend is even affecting people as young as 18.

“I was scared to come,” one Grady Memorial Hospital patient who wanted to remain anonymous told Lincoln.

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The patient told Lincoln that concerns over the Delta variant and dealing with extended ER wait times led him to ignore the severe pain he was having in his arm.

“Because of the pandemic and everything else, and I was scared I wasn’t going to get seen right way, which I didn’t and it’s nerve boggling,” he said.

Dr. Adrian Douglass says this patient is one of many who have postponed needed medical treatment.

“People not going to get their mammograms and getting their pap smears and colonoscopies and all those things,” Dr. Douglass said.

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Some area hospitals have chosen to put a pause on elective surgeries, but Dr. Douglass says his focus is on patients who are pausing important screenings because they are scared to come to medical centers.

“The vaccinations themselves have helped us recently, but there are still some people reluctant to come out of the house because of their fears that they’re going to contract COVID by coming to the doctor’s office,” Dr. Douglass said.

Dr. Douglass says they experienced this at the beginning of the pandemic, but it has recently began to resurface.

According to a study done by The Urban Institute, a nonprofit medical research organization, 36% of non-elderly adults delayed medical care because of COVID-19 exposure risks.

African-Americans and adults with mental health concerns are among the most likely to skip care, according to the same study.

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“Very fearful of a wave of advanced stages of stages of various cancers because of delayed coming in, worsening of people’s status,” Dr. Douglass said.

Doctors say they are trying to keep in contact with those patients and be transparent with how those facilities are cleaned and maintained to help them feel less reluctant.

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