The third wave of COVID-19 patients is worse than any before. The surge is already larger than what we saw in the spring and summer, and it’s not slowing down. Hospitals all over the country are overwhelmed and many are at a breaking point. On a daily basis doctors and nurses are working on the front lines of what is being described as a medical war zone. For people without health insurance, hospitals provide some sense of security as they are legally required to admit a patient in emergency situations.
24/7 Tempo reviewed data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau to find the number of hospitals per capita in U.S. counties. On average nationwide, there is one hospital for every 63,500 people.
There were more than 6,000 hospitals and 924,000 staffed beds registered in the United States as of 2018, the latest year for which data is available, according to the American Hospital Association. Of those hospitals, 5,339 are registered with Medicare. In normal circumstances, this is enough. But these are not normal times.
As of Dec. 12, 2020, there more than 13.8 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States — more than any other country in the world — and the numbers are rapidly rising. These are the states where the virus is spreading the fastest.
People who are sick are not spread evenly across the country. Most cases are found in more densely-populated urban areas — and these crowded places tend to also be the counties with fewest hospitals per capita.
Health experts are expecting COVID-19 cases to surge even more in the coming weeks, and with them there will be a surge in the more severe cases that require hospitalization. Already many hospitals are operating at capacity, and those that have not already reached their maximum capacity likely soon will.