Can hospitals across the nation keep up?

New models developed by researchers at the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI) and at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health project that, as the number of coronavirus patients increases in the U.S., the pressure on hospitals across the nation will vary dramatically.

In most of the projections, “vast communities in America are not prepared to take care of the COVID-19 patients showing up,” said Ashish Jha, HGHI director and K.T. Li Professor of Global Health at Harvard Chan School, in a March 17, 2020 ProPublica article.

In the Harvard team’s moderate scenario, in which 40% of the adult population in the U.S. becomes infected with coronavirus over the course of a year, 98.9 million Americans would get sick, but many will have mild or no symptoms. Just over a fifth of all cases, though, would require hospitalization, and to treat all of those patients, the nation would have to more than double its available hospital beds. Of those who need hospitalization, about a fifth would need intensive care and possibly a ventilator.

In a March 17 New York Times article about the analysis, Jha said, “If we don’t make substantial changes, both in spreading the disease over time and expanding capacity, we’re going to run out of hospital beds. And in that instance, we will not be able to take care of critically ill people, and people will die.”

Read the ProPublica article: Are Hospitals Near Me Ready for Coronavirus? Here Are Nine Different Scenarios.

Read the New York Times article: These Places Could Run Out of Hospital Beds as Coronavirus Spreads