As COVID-19 spread across the U.S. more aggressively with each day, several measures of the disease have become standards. Among them are deaths, cases, infection rates, and hospitalizations. Recently, the hospitalization figure has become extremely important. In many parts of American, the ICU. (intensive care unit) beds available are at or near capacity.
Among the markers of the spread of the disease, confirmed cases reached 16,016,159, up 300,928 yesterday. Fatal cases reached 298,904, up by 3,454. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine forecasts fatal cases will reach 539,000 by April 1.
In the last several days, hospitalizations have moved above 100,000 nationwide. And, ICU capacity has become a great problem because these beds are used for the most severely ill people. Any lengthy period when I.C.U. beds are filled to overflowing means that some of these individuals will not get the treatment they desperately need.
The New York Times keeps hospitalization by city in its “Where hospitals are at capacity” analysis. Nationwide, the percentage of ICU. beds being used (ICU occupancy) is 72%. In over 20 cities, the number is 100% or above.
The city with the highest IC. bed occupancy rate is tiny Cullman, Alabama, with a population of 16,034. I.C.U. occupancy is 131%. The figure makes no sense in that no hospital can have more than 100% of its bed occupied. It does indicate just how desperate the situation is.
A 24/7 Wall St. analysis of Cullman County shows that it is among the more troubled ones in Alabama but certainly not at the top of the list in the state when measured by confirmed cases. Its cases per 100,000 are 6,650. So, it may be that Cullman’s hospital disaster has as much to do with available beds as it does the county’s caseload.
Cullmann County is in the north-central part of Alabama. Its population has grown since the start of the 20th Century when it was 1,255. Almost 95% of the residents are White. Median household income is well below the national average at only 29,164.
If the spread of COVID-19 in Cullman County is like the balance of America, there is a very real chance that its ICU. bed occupancy will rise from an impossible 131% to a number even higher.
This is the worst hotspot county in all 50 states.
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