How coronavirus infection rates may squeeze Georgia’s ICU hospital beds

By Emily Merwin DiRico

Contributing reporting by Carrie Teegardin, John Perry and Nick Thiem

Coronavirus infections threaten to overwhelm hospitals and particularly intensive care units for the sickest patients. Based on infection-rate models, these maps predict how overwhelmed Georgia's ICUs might become even if hospitals could free up about half of the ICU beds that are typically occupied. Would freeing-up those ICU beds be enough to care for all the patients likely to become critically ill? The answer is often no, according to models developed by Harvard University public health researchers. These maps show that efforts to slow the infection rate – such as social distancing – help the ICUs from becoming so overwhelmed. Hospitals are responding to models like these by quickly increasing their overall beds and their ICU capacity across the state. It's also possible that the models may overstate how many Georgians will need critical care or hospitalization. Georgia's hospitals say if they can get enough healthcare workers, masks, gowns and ventilators, and can find space quickly, that will make it possible to meet the demand, especially if Georgians do their part to slow down the spread of COVID-19.

The maps below show what percentage of the available* beds ICUs would need, based on various scenarios, to care for the sickest patients.