Illinois hospitals face the possibility of widespread bed shortages if the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 continues to spread through the state, according to several scenarios analyzed by Harvard’s Global Health Institute.
Perhaps 1.7 million adults living in Illinois are projected to get the virus over the course of the pandemic, with thousands expected to become sick enough to need a hospital bed, the analysis found. Yet across the state, from metropolitan Chicago to southern Illinois, hospitals lack enough beds, including intensive care unit beds, to meet that rising need.
The model projects how different hospital systems around the country could handle a surge in patient admissions if 20%, 40% or 60% of the adult population becomes infected over 6, 12 or 18 months. The projections are based on 2018 hospital occupancy levels and bed counts, as well as the trajectory of the virus so far. According to the model, about a fifth of adults who are infected will need to be hospitalized.
In all but the best-case scenario, where the infection is held to 20% over 18 months, more than half of the hospital regions in Illinois would run out of beds.
If 40% of the adult population in Illinois becomes infected with the virus over the next 12 months — the moderate scenario considered by the Harvard team — there will be bed shortages in every part of the state, including places along the border, such as East St. Louis, where people may rely on hospitals in other states.
These figures assume that hospitals will treat new COVID-19 patients while continuing to admit people with other conditions, including those opting for elective procedures, although hospitals in Illinois are already starting to postpone these appointments. It also does not take into account that state and local officials may open additional hospital beds.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 160 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, including one death, according to the state Department of Public Health.
ProPublica has made this analysis available as an online tool. Read the full article and look up the hospital bed capacity in your area here.