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Maps: Track hospital stress levels in your state

Higher numbers of Covid patients limit the ability of hospitals to provide a full range of services.
Nurses and hospital staff adjust the position of a critically-ill Covid-19 patient in the South Seven Intensive Care Unit on Dec. 8, 2021, at North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale, Minn.
Nurses and hospital staff adjust the position of a critically-ill Covid patient on Dec. 8 at North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale, Minn.Aaron Lavinsky / Star Tribune via Getty Images file

Welcome to The Data Point, a series from the NBC News Data Graphics team that explains a slice of the latest news through charts and visuals.

Hospitals in all but two states are, on average, experiencing high or extreme stress levels, according to an NBC News analysis of data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The measurement of hospital stress, on a scale from low to extreme, was introduced by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The statistic is based on the share of hospital beds used by Covid patients, which illustrates a hospital’s stress level.

As of Friday Feb. 11, one state was rated as extreme-stress, down from 15 states and territories two weeks ago. The hospitals with the highest stress include those in Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia. Low-stress hospitals have fewer than 5 percent of beds dedicated to Covid patients; high stress equals 10 percent to 19 percent.

“By increasing the stress, you reduce the capacity of the hospital to take care of preventive services, such as screenings and elective surgeries,” said Dr. Ali Mokdad, a professor at the institute.

"Increasing the stress means more time for physicians in the hospital to maintain the correct ratio of staff to patients,” Mokdad said.

The stress-level measurements help hospitals plan, Mokdad said in an email. Looking at state-level figures can obscure how individual hospitals are doing — rural hospitals with fewer resources are more likely to struggle under Covid patient loads.

These maps show hospital stress levels and track how they have changed over time. They will be updated daily.

NBC News is tracking ICU stress levels, hospitalization rates across the country, Covid case surges in each state, vaccination rates nationwide and whether the CDC recommends indoor masking in the county where you live.