Dr. Cyrus Shahpar and Former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden: Number of intensive care beds needed for COVID-19 in the United States could far exceed the number available

March 19, 2020

Initially, we estimated that the surge of critically ill COVID-19 patients would require an increase of up to three times the supply of intensive-care unit (ICU) beds in the United States. Now, we believe there could be a need for ten times more intensive care beds and ventilators in some areas. This revision is based on new information from infectious disease modeling, evolving trends in Italy, and other location-specific analyses which account for local and regional critical care capacity.  We must continue to try to flatten the curve and reduce the demands on the health system. At the same time, we need to increase the number of available ICU beds, including the equipment and staff needed to expertly manage patients.

Source: Vox

The Imperial College modeling study projects that without any intervention, there will be a need for more than 250 critical care beds per 100,000 people. With maximum suppression strategies we can reduce this to less than 100 beds per 100,000 people.

Source: Imperial College

This article from the heavily-affected area of Lombardy, Italy, shows that ICU demand far outstrips supply. There were 482 ICU beds available, but projected needs ranged from 869 (1.8x) to 14,542 (30x) ICU admissions by March 20.

This recent analysis of hospital capacity in the United States showed that across the country, peak demand for hospital beds could far outstrip supply.  Overall, the author estimated that there could be six severely ill patients for every hospital bed.

Source: USA Today

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