This scary website estimates when the coronavirus will overwhelm your state’s hospitals

  • The latest coronavirus update from a growing number of state health officials is that hospital systems in some of the largest cities in the US, particularly in New York, are reaching a tipping point when it comes to the number of cases related to the virus that they can handle.
  • A new project called COVID Act Now includes a website tool that will allow you to project out when your state’s hospital system will be overwhelmed depending on how aggressively your state moves to limit public gatherings and contact.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

“This week, it’s gonna get bad.”

Those were the chilling words US Surgeon General Jerome Adams stressed Monday morning during an appearance on NBC’s The Today Show which brought somber new context to the consequences of the deadly coronavirus that’s sickened 35,000 people around the country and killed almost 400.

It was also a reference to the fact that hospital systems in some of the nation’s largest cities like New York City, now the epicenter of the crisis in the US, are nearing a tipping point and close to being overwhelmed by new cases. And it’s with that in mind that a team of data scientists, engineers, and other experts has banded together to create a website called COVID Act Now that estimates when the coronavirus will overwhelm your state’s hospitals — with the estimates showing the effect of no official action, moderate shut-downs of public activity, and more stringent actions to combat the virus.

“We built this tool,” the website’s creators note, “to answer critically important questions such as: What will the impact be in my region be and when can I expect it? How long until my hospital system is under severe pressure? What is my menu of interventions, and how will they address the spread of Coronavirus?

“We built to solve an urgent problem: If we try to fight COVID in the present we will lose (e.g., Italy). We can only beat COVID by understanding what it will do to us in the near future.”

With that in mind, let’s take a look at New York State. Here’s what the COVID Act Now estimates show, which are current as of the time of this writing:


What the data shows is an estimate of what three months of community-wide “social distancing” will have on the state health system’s ability to handle hospitalizations — which, as you can see above, would generate a little less than 200,000 hospitalizations at the peak of the crisis. Unfortunately, as that orange graph shows, such a figure would still far exceed the state’s number of available hospital beds, as reflected by the horizontal black line.

The ideal mechanism for addressing the crisis is three months of a “shelter-in-place” order, the results of which are reflected in the elongated blue graph. The number of hospitalizations lingers until late May, though it stays within the number of available hospital beds the whole time — and things start to taper off completely in June.

Such projections will become incredibly critical in the days ahead, since President Trump on Sunday tweeted his interest in getting everyone back to work and the economy moving again sooner rather than later. The danger in pulling back on the restrictions too soon is that the renewed interactions between members of the public spike the number of virus cases back up again:

Meantime, here’s another tool you can check to get a sense of how prepared your local healthcare system is to handle the influx of new cases attributable to the novel coronavirus outbreak. The tool is courtesy of ProPublica, and it crunches a large amount of data to project how local hospitals will fare as a result of the COVID-19 spread.

Fast Company
Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

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