Key findings:

  • West Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania rank highest for hospital capacity.
  • Utah, Idaho and Nevada rank lowest for hospital capacity.
  • Nationwide, there are an average of 2.96 physicians and 2.4 hospital beds per 1,000 people.
  • 23 states saw a decrease in hospital beds per 1,000 people from 2014 to 2018.

One of the primary concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic is the capacity of health care systems to handle the growing number of cases. The CDC and other health organizations refer to this as flattening the curve. "The curve" is the total number of cases in a time period since the first case. If there are too many total cases in a short period of time, it can overwhelm health care capacity to treat people for COVID-19. The goal of flattening the curve is to reduce the number of new cases over a longer period of time. This flat curve allows for enough healthcare capacity to treat new cases of COVID-19.

Siobhan Roberts of The New York Times had a great analogy of how health care capacity can become overwhelmed: Imagine the healthcare system as a subway car that holds only so many people at once. During rush hour, the subway car is at capacity and everyone else is left waiting on the platform for the next car. With a "rush hour" of new COVID-19 cases, health care capacity becomes overwhelmed. By reducing rush hour traffic, everyone has a spot on the train. This is why implementing preventative measures of social distancing and shelter is effective in slowing the number of new cases so health care systems do not become overwhelmed.

flatten the curve

The capacity of the health care system to handle COVID-19 is dependent on how many people have access to critical health care components like hospital beds, nurses, doctors and equipment like ventilators. We here at QuoteWizard wanted to analyze health care capacity in each state to see which states are best equipped to handle new cases of COVID-19. To evaluate health care capacity, we analyzed Kaiser Family Foundation data on hospital 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 most prepared for hospital capacity.

Rank State Physicians per 1,000 people Beds per 1,000 people
1 West Virginia 3.17 3.74
2 New York 4.60 2.7
3 Pennsylvania 3.99 2.92
4 Nebraska 2.91 3.54
5 Missouri 3.30 3.08
6 Ohio 3.63 2.88
7 Louisiana 2.97 3.16
8 Massachusetts 5.25 2.32
9 Michigan 3.89 2.5
10 Maine 3.51 2.54
11 North Dakota 2.64 4.28
12 Kansas 2.72 3.38
13 Illinois 3.42 2.5
14 Minnesota 3.22 2.58
15 Kentucky 2.67 3.2
16 New Jersey 3.43 2.34
17 Rhode Island 4.71 2.1
18 Tennessee 2.78 2.98
19 Connecticut 4.38 2.06
20 Iowa 2.70 3.04
21 South Dakota 2.31 4.76
22 Delaware 3.23 2.2
23 Maryland 4.08 1.94
24 Mississippi 2.22 4.08
25 Vermont 3.75 1.98
26 Alabama 2.49 3.08
27 Arkansas 2.37 3.18
28 Montana 2.18 3.52
29 Florida 2.63 2.62
30 New Hampshire 3.12 2.1
31 Wisconsin 3.04 2.14
32 Indiana 2.50 2.62
33 Wyoming 2.03 3.24
34 Oklahoma 2.39 2.84
35 Virginia 2.73 2.14
36 North Carolina 2.71 2.14
37 South Carolina 2.50 2.5
38 Alaska 2.60 2.26
39 Georgia 2.38 2.4
40 California 2.86 1.82
41 Washington 2.89 1.7
42 New Mexico 2.78 1.82
43 Oregon 2.88 1.66
44 Texas 2.23 2.3
45 Colorado 2.52 1.92
46 Hawaii 2.58 1.86
47 Arizona 2.45 1.96
48 Nevada 2.00 2
49 Idaho 1.69 1.98
50 Utah 2.11 1.82

Methodology

QuoteWizard analyzed Kaiser Family Foundation data on hospital beds and physicians per 1,000 people. We evaluated and ranked states on the number of hospital beds and physicians per 1,000 people. Final rankings are a composite score of states' hospital beds and physicians preparedness. States with the highest ranking are considered to have the best hospital preparedness.