New Orleans, USA: Perfect Storm of Alcohol Harm and COVID-19
In New Orleans, USA, the alcohol harm epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic are brewing a perfect storm of violence, injury and trauma, fueled by soaring online alcohol sales during the country’s lockdown, and exerting a heavy strain on the emergency care system that is already on the brink.
Across the United States, the addiction epidemic has collided with COVID-19 making the burden on healthcare and emergency services even heavier.
Nevertheless, sales of alcohol through online channels and delivery apps are soaring in the United States, during the lockdown driven by the alcohol industry and their social media marketing push. Online retail and aggressive marketing in social media are two of the industry’s main strategies during the public health emergency, to protect their profits as much as possible.
According to Nielsen data, alcoholic beverage sales were up 55% compared with the same time last year. Online alcohol orders rose by 243%.
The increase in alcohol use and violence – which goes hand in hand – is putting excessive pressure on emergency services during this pandemic, specially in hard hit areas such as New Orleans in the state of Louisiana. For example, at the University Medical Center – the only Level 1 trauma center in the region – surgeons who are trained in ventilator use are taking care of COVID-19 patients and their usual trauma patients.
Critical resources — protective equipment and most importantly, hospital staff — are in high demand with still low supply. Just one person in an accident can consume enough protective gear to outfit a dozen employees.
Frontline workers say the lack of work for many and the decline in social activities during the stay-at-home period has translated into alcohol-related accidents. He gives an example of a patient who took a child on an ATV while consuming alcohol. While the child was not harmed, the driver of the ATV suffered critical injuries.
We can’t afford it right now,” said Dr. Greiffenstein, a trauma surgeon, as per Nola News.
Experts warn about the danger of not having enough resources to treat patients if more people start to fall ill from the virus.
[I]f as many people get sick as our worst progressions… I don’t know what it would look like to take care of that many people who are that sick,” added Dr. Greiffenstein, as per Nola News.
There is a decline in overall trauma cases, but those that occur are often preventable. Even during a pandemic, alcohol consumption and violence don’t necessarily take a break. And as alcohol sales are booming across the U.S. alcohol-related trauma cases will continue to exert a heavy toll.
Similar concerns are being expressed by frontline workers and healthcare experts across the world. For example, doctors in the UK have called for higher alcohol prices to reduce the burden of alcohol harm on the National Health Service (NHS).
A reduction in alcohol-related accidents would help the emergency services and the healthcare system to maintain capacity and save lives. This is why public health experts in USA have been calling for alcohol bans in states to reduce alcohol related accidents, complications and violence.