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Hospitals in almost half the states of the country are, on average, experiencing high 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 Tuesday Jan. 18, 19 states and territories were rated as extreme-stress, up from zero states four weeks ago. The hospitals with the highest stress include those in Maryland, Ohio and Georgia, while a pocket of moderate stress states is in the intermountain West. 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.