The emergence of the delta variant of COVID-19 is once again putting a major strain on health care systems nationwide. One of the primary concerns during the pandemic is the ability of each state’s hospitals to handle a growing number of cases. If there are too many cases in a short period of time, hospitals can run out of beds and their capacity to treat people diagnosed with COVID-19 can be overwhelmed.

Our team of analysts looked at each state’s number of intensive care unit (ICU) beds, staffing shortages and number of physicians to see which states are least prepared for another surge in cases.

Key findings:

    • Over 77% of ICU beds across the country are currently being used.
    • Nearly 25% of hospitals are dealing with critical staffing shortages.
    • Georgia, Texas and Idaho currently have the least prepared hospitals.
    • More than 90% of ICU beds in five southern states are being used.
    • Florida, Texas and Georgia have the highest numbers of pediatric patients in the hospital with COVID-19.
    • Nationwide, there are an average of 2.96 physicians and .32 ICU beds per 1,000 people.

When our team of analysts looked at each state’s ICU unit, we found that many southern states are nearing or already at capacity. Nearly 90% of ICU beds in five southern states are currently occupied. We also found that southern states had a higher percentage of hospitals experiencing critical staffing shortages, and that the number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 is rising.

ICU bed and staffing shortages in each state
State % of ICU beds in use % of hospitals with critical staffing shortage Number of pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations
U.S. 77% 22% 5,967
Alabama 101% 43% 55
Georgia 94% 30% 146
Florida 93% 33% 216
Mississippi 93% 17% 32
Texas 93% 23% 237
Kentucky 91% 19% 52
Louisiana 89% 27% 47
Missouri 89% 43% 76
Oklahoma 88% 34% 61
Arkansas 87% 22% 26
Nevada 85% 6% 5
North Carolina 85% 9% 49
South Carolina 84% 32% 18
New Mexico 84% 40% 21
Idaho 83% 9% 4
Maine 80% 10% 5
Alaska 80% 9% 3
Rhode Island 79% 55% 3
California 79% 32% 136
Oregon 78% 10% 20
Vermont 78% 29% 0
Minnesota 77% 15% 15
Pennsylvania 77% 14% 62
Colorado 76% 11% 26
Washington 76% 31% 34
Delaware 76% 14% 6
Michigan 76% 3% 17
Hawaii 75% 4% 4
West Virginia 75% 19% 16
Kansas 75% 14% 5
Indiana 75% 14% 35
Nebraska 75% 14% 5
Massachuseets 73% 11% 6
Tennessee 73% 59% 51
Virginia 72% 17% 21
Iowa 71% 7% 14
Maryland 70% 2% 16
Ohio 70% 10% 139
Montana 70% 11% 9
Utah 69% 7% 8
Illinois 69% 9% 47
New York 66% 4% 66
Wisconsin 64% 15% 10
North Dakota 63% 25% 1
New Hampshire 60% 19% 0
South Dakota 59% 0% 2
Arizona 59% 29% 65
Connecticut 54% 0% 5
New Jersey 42% 10% 90
Wyoming 41% 22% 2

Ranking state hospital capacity

To evaluate health care capacity, we analyzed Health and Human Services (HHS) and Kaiser Family Foundation data looking at IUC beds and physicians per 1,000 people in each state. We took a composite ranking score to determine hospital capacity in each state. States with the highest rankings are considered least prepared for hospital capacity. We also compared HHS data for estimated ICU beds in use. This capacity figure is intended to show the total current capacity of ICU beds as of Aug. 23.

States that are least prepared for hospital capacity
Rank State ICU beds per 1,000 people Physicians per 1,000 people % of ICU utilized
1 Georgia 1.59 2.38 94%
2 Texas 2.07 2.23 93%
3 Idaho 2.02 1.69 83%
4 South Carolina 1.77 2.50 84%
5 New Mexico 1.50 2.78 84%
6 Alaska 1.61 2.60 80%
7 (tie) Nevada 2.37 2.00 85%
7 (tie) Oklahoma 2.25 2.39 88%
9 Hawaii 1.23 2.58 75%
10 Mississippi 2.47 2.22 93%
11 North Carolina 1.92 2.71 85%
12 (tie) Utah 1.54 2.11 69%
12 (tie) Colorado 1.67 2.52 76%
14 California 1.54 2.86 79%
15 Oregon 1.50 2.88 78%
16 Washington 1.23 2.89 76%
17 Arkansas 2.57 2.37 87%
18 Alabama 2.87 2.49 101%
19 Arizona 1.48 2.45 59%
20 Vermont 0.98 3.75 78%
21 (tie) Kentucky 2.71 2.67 91%
21 (tie) Florida 3.65 2.63 93%
23 (tie) Virginia 1.80 2.73 72%
23 (tie) Minnesota 1.96 3.22 77%
25 Rhode Island 1.60 4.71 79%
26 Maine 2.10 3.51 80%
27 (tie) South Dakota 2.26 2.31 59%
27 (tie) Indiana 2.39 2.50 75%
29 Montana 2.53 2.18 70%
30 (tie) Pennsylvania 2.01 3.99 77%
30 (tie) Louisiana 2.81 2.97 89%
32 Delaware 2.21 3.23 76%
33 (tie) Tennessee 2.33 2.78 73%
33 (tie) Kansas 2.46 2.72 75%
33 (tie) Missouri 2.80 3.30 89%
36 (tie) Wyoming 2.61 2.03 41%
36 (tie) Maryland 1.69 4.08 70%
38 Wisconsin 2.08 3.04 64%
39 Iowa 2.55 2.70 71%
40 Nebraska 2.44 2.91 75%
41 Michigan 2.29 3.89 76%
42 New Hampshire 2.15 3.12 60%
43 Illinois 2.23 3.42 69%
44 North Dakota 2.70 2.64 63%
45 New Jersey 2.05 3.43 42%
46 West Virginia 3.17 3.17 75%
47 (tie) Ohio 2.39 3.63 70%
47 (tie) Massachuseets 2.34 5.25 73%
49 New York 2.35 4.60 66%
50 Connecticut 2.27 4.38 54%

Many people are referring to the current spike in the number of COVID-19 cases as the fifth wave. Spikes in southern states are particularly troubling because our analysis found many of these states are not prepared to handle the influx of COVID-19 patients.

Methodology

To calculate the number of available ICU beds in each state, we used data from the United States Department of Health and Human Services compiled starting on Aug. 19.

Data on the number of ICU beds and physicians per capita was compiled using information from the Kaiser Family Foundation and HHS. To calculate the least prepared states for hospital capacity, we generated an aggregate score based on the number of available ICU beds, physicians per capita and current hospital capacity.