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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.