Coronavirus News: When COVID-19 could leave hospitals without beds?

NEW YORK (WABC) -- As the numbers of coronavirus cases continue to increase, so does concern about a potential lack of hospital beds in the U.S. should this virus reach a worst-case scenario.

The Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) estimated 50% of the global population could become infected with the virus and 20% of those cases could become severe, 1-3% could result in death.

Using more conservative estimates, the 7 On Your Side Investigates data team analyzed the number of hospital beds in the US as of 2018, assuming 15% of cases could require hospitalization, and we found space will be a problem in the U.S. long before hospitalizations reach that threshold.

So, just how many hospital beds do we have in the U.S. and how does that compare to other countries battling this pandemic?

County by county analysis of hospital beds in New York and New Jersey revealed a significant disparity among county readiness for increased hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

We found only two counties in upstate New York, Ontario and Cattaraugus Counties, had enough beds to accommodate roughly 5% of the population in those counties becoming infected.

In New Jersey, Somerset and Sussex Counties could run out before even 1% of the population became infected.

Rockland and Suffolk Counties in New York could accommodate roughly 1.4% and 1.5% of the population becoming infected.

New York City had slightly more bed space, but would face a spaced shortage before 2% of the population became infected.

That analysis assumes all of the hospital beds in each county are available to COVID-19 patients, which they are not. Many beds are already being utilized by other sick individuals.

Interactive data visualization showing the overall situation in counties across New York

To expand on the problem, our data team also compared the number of hospital beds per 1,000 people in the U.S. to Italy, where already doctors have had to resort to makeshift intensive care units.

Italy had 3.2 beds for every 1,000 people. The U.S. has less bed space, only 2.8 beds for every 1,000 people.

President Trump is sending two hospital ships to help with supply and the federal government is considering how to deploy other mobile hospitals to meet the need.

It's a step forward, but still potentially not enough to accommodate the need the U.S. could experience before this virus subsides.


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