America Is Running Out of Hospital Beds and Rural Areas Are Hardest Hit

Workers from a Servpro disaster recovery team wearing protective suits and respirators are given supplies as they line up before entering the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash. to begin cleaning and disinfecting the facility, Wednesday, March 11, 2020, near Seattle. The nursing home is at the center of the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Washington state. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Did you know that 4 percent of Americans over the age of 65 — 1.8 million people — live in counties that don’t have a hospital? The unfolding tragedy of the COVID-19 outbreak has revealed a desperate lack of critical care facilities for those who don’t live in big cities or suburbs and it is likely to cost many lives.


New York, Los Angeles, and other large cities are already in dire straits as far as critical patients filling up ICU units. But it’s in smaller states and rural areas where authorities are already overextended. Alabama, Louisiana, and Georgia are calling for help.


Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a television interview with the city’s CBS affiliate Tuesday afternoon that the city’s hospitals are at capacity. But I notice this interview is not the lead story on the affiliate’s website, nor is that news anywhere in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as of this writing.

Elsewhere in Georgia, we can find more specifics about a hospital in the state’s eighth-largest city that no longer has room in their ICU units:

The governor of Louisiana sent a letter to the president telling him he fears the state will reach its maximum hospital capacity by April 4. State health officials in Alabama say they are “nearing capacity” now. Michigan, Idaho, Oregon, New Mexico — predominantly rural states — never had to plan for an onslaught like the coronavirus.

New York is commandeering hotel rooms to handle the overflow. Governor Cuomo believes up to 140,000 hospital beds will be needed in the next two weeks.



Cuomo conducted his press conference Tuesday morning at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, which is being converted into a 1,000-bed hospital.

“The increase in the number of cases continues unabated,” Cuomo said. “As a matter of fact, the rate of increase has gone up. … The rate of new infections is doubling about every three days. That is a dramatic increase in the rate of infection. We’re not slowing it, and it is accelerating on its own.”

Cuomo’s warning that other states can expect to experience the same spike in confirmed coronavirus cases came a few hours before President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, in an interview on the White House lawn with Fox News, said they are anticipating restarting the economy and having people return to work around April 12 — Easter Sunday.

I believe Donald Trump will be forced by circumstances to change his mind about America going back to work by Easter. The president is getting antsy about the economy and I’m sure it’s more than just political considerations that are driving his concern. His economic experts are telling him we’re already looking at months for the economy to recover. But another month or six weeks of this and we may be looking at years before we get back to where we were before the virus hit.


But how can the president say it’s OK to go back to work when people are fighting for their lives in a makeshift hospital in a high school gym somewhere? Or left to gasp for air in a hotel room because there aren’t enough ventilators?

I don’t think we have the imagination to see how bad this is going to get before it starts to get better.


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