Check If Hospitals in Your Area Are Ready for COVID-19

As COVID-19 becomes more prevalent, one of the biggest concerns is that healthcare facilities could be overwhelmed. This is why we are all trying to “ flatten the curve, ” making sure that even if the virus spreads, it does so at a rate that the health care system can handle.

Propublica has a new tool for comparing health systems across multiple domains . You can specify your location and the tool will show one measure of capacity – the number of hospital beds available – versus some speculation about how the virus might spread.

It is important to know that all numbers given here are approximate. We do not know how many people will eventually become infected, or how quickly. Even the best mathematical models fail to take all important factors into account. Take this from health policy expert Andy Slavitt (former Director of Medicare, Medicaid, and ACA Systems), who says you need to pay attention to general principles, not worry about specific numbers:

To recognize this uncertainty, ProPublica’s tool handles nine different scenarios and calculates the likely available hospital bed numbers for each. For example, here’s a graph for my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the longest possible time and at the lowest level of infection, we are all right. In other scenarios, the need will be more acute.

I am sharing this tool not because I think everyone should be worried, but because it is a good way to get a visual representation of some of the scenarios that public health and policymakers are looking at. If we can expand our capacity to work with patients, it will improve the quality of service for everyone – people with COVID-19 and people with other diseases. Canceling electoral procedures could be one way to free up space; the construction of new clinics may be different. The details are yet to come, but it is not too early for the people in charge to start planning ahead.

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