Picture of a knife, not the one in story.
Example of a knife. Photo via Pixabay

Two Riverside County hospitals participated in a UC Irvine-led study released Tuesday showing gunshot and knife wounds increased during the COVID-19 pandemic in Southern California, but injuries from traffic crashes were down.

UCI Health researchers reviewed 20,450 trauma patients who were treated at 11 Level I and Level II trauma centers in hospitals across seven counties — including the UC Riverside Health System and the Loma Linda University Medical Center. 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 Dr. Jeffry Nahmias, a UCI Medical Center trauma surgeon and the study’s senior investigator with UCI Health surgery resident Dr. Eric Yeates.

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.

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