As the national media converged on Georgia before the state’s Senate runoffs on Tuesday, COVID-19 hospitalizations there continued to rise sharply and are now the fifth worst in the country, adjusted for population. According to Vox, more than 40 hospitals in the state are no longer able to accept new patients into ICUs or emergency rooms for any reason.
In the West, Arizona, California, and Nevada are all reporting alarming COVID-19 hospitalization numbers. In Arizona, where residents experienced a severe outbreak over the summer, case rates are soaring. According to our data, there are 670 people hospitalized with COVID-19 per million in Arizona—more than in any other state, and far more than the state’s worst hospitalization numbers over the summer. Hospitals in the state are preparing to ration care. In Nevada, the state reporting the second-highest per capita COVID-19 hospitalizations this week, tens of thousands of people descended on the Las Vegas Strip for high-risk New Year’s Eve celebrations.
In Southern California, the virus rages on, with Los Angeles County alone reporting a death due to COVID-19 every 10 minutes on average, and a new infection every six seconds. Oxygen shortages and ICU overcrowding have forced paramedics to begin rationing care, with Los Angeles County ambulances directed not to “transport patients with little chance of survival to hospitals, and to conserve the use of oxygen.” One in 16 people in Los Angeles County has tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Los Angeles Times. Per capita new-case rates in neighboring San Bernardino and Riverside Counties have now surpassed Los Angeles County’s, leading to crisis levels of hospitalizations.
Latino people in California are about 2.7 times more likely to have tested positive for COVID-19, three times more likely to be hospitalized, and 2.6 times more likely to die than their white neighbors. In Los Angeles County, one in 13 Latino people has tested positive, according to data from the public-health department, and the Los Angeles Times reports that the seven-day average for hospitalizations among Latino residents is now 80 per 100,000, compared with 26 per 100,000 for white residents.
Racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 hospitalizations are not limited to California. Although only 22 states currently report race and ethnicity data for hospitalizations, in every state that does, Black people are more likely than white people to have been hospitalized with COVID-19. Latino people are also more likely to be hospitalized than white people in 21 of the 22 states that report these data.
Mapping the strain on local hospital systems
Yesterday, the COVID Tracking Project launched a new, hospital-level interactive explorer powered by data from the Department of Health and Human Services and a generous donation of software from Mapbox. A brief look through the HHS hospital data for the most worrying states in the South and West reveals the local contours of each state’s health-care systems as they encounter worsening outbreaks.