Here’s how to find out if the hospitals near you are full because of the coronavirus pandemic

a hospital waiting room full of people
Photo via Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, concerns were high that hospitals would overflow, leaving patients who may need critical care waiting. While the summer months saw very few hospitals reach capacity, the winter months are a different story. Colder weather has prompted a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections, leading many hospitals to the brink of overflow. In response, the federal government released data detailing which hospitals are full and which ones still have space for incoming patients. 

The data includes a count of how many inpatient and ICU beds are available each week. Patients in need of hospital care can review the data to ensure that, when they arrive at the hospital, the location can provide a bed.

To ease the process of finding an available hospital, NPR took it one step further. The news organization created a tool, using analysis from the University of Minnesota’s COVID-19 Hospitalization Tracking Project, to help people see how their local hospitals are faring and which hospitals are full. 

The tool displays how many beds are currently occupied by COVID-19 patients for each hospital as well as an average for each county. The ratio of COVID-19 hospitalizations to total beds is important, according to NPR, because it shows how much strain a hospital is under.

If the rate rises above 10%, there is cause for concern. Anything over 20% indicates a hospital is under “extreme stress,” and if it raises to 50% or higher, the strain on hospital staff is “immense.”

The CDC previously provided downloadable datasets estimating hospital capacity on national and state levels. The most recent of these was uploaded in July, however, so they are thoroughly out of date. They can be used to estimate the capacity of your local hospital, however, if you are willing to take the time to examine and extrapolate the data. 

If the hospital closest to you is at or nearing capacity, you can use NPR’s tool to search for other options. When beds aren’t available, planning ahead is necessary. If you have COVID-19 or if you or a loved one are concerned about potentially requiring a hospital visit, make sure that you know which hospitals are full—and which are equipped to provide care.  

Sources: NPR, CDC

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