In December 2020, HHS released the most detailed data available on COVID-19 hospitalizations and hospital capacity. This release provided new information on the average number of COVID-19 patients currently in hospital or ICU beds at individual facilities across the nation every week since the beginning of August.
At The COVID Tracking Project, we dove deep into this new data set’s intricacies before the new year. Now, we’ve visualized the most recent week of data reported by each facility to HHS on an interactive map.
While there are dozens of useful metrics included in the full HHS facility-level data, we focused on two: how many COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized, and how many are in the ICU. This presents a clear, localized understanding of the pandemic’s impact on communities and the healthcare systems that serve them. The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients may vary significantly between facilities that are only a few minutes’ drive apart. As nearby facilities fill up, patients may have to be transported miles away—occasionally even to another state altogether—which can negatively impact quality of care.
We also show the percentage of staffed bed capacity currently occupied by COVID-19 patients. A staffed bed is not just the physical bed itself: Each inpatient—whether hospitalized with COVID-19 or not—requires specialized healthcare providers and other essential workers, medications, machines, protective equipment, and supplies. Hospitals across the US have worked hard to expand their capacity in the face of surging patient caseloads—e.g, by converting available space towards patient care, increasing staff, or stretching equipment use. But each additional hospitalized patient that brings a hospital or ICU closer to 100% of capacity used creates an extraordinary strain on resources and makes the optimal standard of care harder to maintain.
How to best use this map
There are two data layers on the map to toggle between: visualizing COVID-19 patients currently in the hospital (“all inpatients”) or those currently in intensive care (“ICU patients”). The bubble size corresponds to the number of adult COVID-19 patients currently at each facility while bubble color corresponds to the share of staffed inpatient or ICU beds which are occupied by COVID-19 patients. Note that ICU patients are considered a subset of inpatients and each count includes both confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases.
Hovering over or tapping each facility will display information about the number of currently hospitalized COVID-19 patients and the percentage of staffed bed capacity used. Selecting a facility or its name on the left-hand pane will pop-up more detailed data. Use the share icon next to the facility name to copy a link so you can share that facility’s data with others.
The search bar on the upper left can be used to look up hospital facilities by city or zip code. The map will move to the location of those results and present all facilities in view on the results pane. You can zoom in or out to bring a region or city into view and the URL link will update to match. For example, this link shows the city of Los Angeles and surrounding areas.
All this information can also be accessed in a table view via the “Search facilities in a table” located below the map. More details about what each data field means, along with key value explanations, are provided in the “About this map” expandable section.
The dataset is updated by HHS every Monday and reflects the average of data reported during the prior week (spanning Friday to Thursday). We will update the map on the same cadence to present the most recent data available.
This granular information allows the public to see, for the first time in this level of detail, how the spread of this virus is impacting their local hospitals. We commend the teams collaborating across the HHS, the CDC, the US Digital Service, and the local, state, and tribal governments who have worked to bring this data to light. We would also like to thank Mapbox for donating their map studio products for this project, which helped us move quickly from a large and complicated dataset to a beautiful and interactive map. We will continue our analysis of this data in the coming weeks, focusing on how surges impact capacity across different areas (from state to county to local health systems).
Dave Luo has an MD/MBA and is a Data Science and Data Viz lead at The COVID Tracking Project.
Peter Walker is Head of Marketing & Growth at PublicRelay and Data Viz Co-Lead at The COVID Tracking Project.
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