PROJECTUnderstanding Hospital Bed Capacities Nationwide amid COVID-19

With confirmed cases of COVID-19 increasing across the United States each day, hospital bed capacities are becoming strained. The US had an estimated 2.2 hospital beds per 1,000 people in 2018, but those numbers varied by region. The data also showed low hospital bed availability in states that currently have the largest numbers of COVID-19 cases, such as New York and Washington.

To help with the surging need for hospital beds, some state and local policymakers have suggested using federal government resources such as military aid. Urban Institute researchers have used 2018 American Health Association data to show which areas could have the greatest capacity concerns, and these data illustrate why policymakers and health officials in these regions should consider

  • increasing staffing capacity,

  • canceling elective surgeries,

  • and using alternative spaces to increase physical capacity.


This interactive county-level map shows which parts of the country have the most and least available hospital beds, indicating which areas may need additional resources as the number of COVID-19 cases increases. Hover over a county to see its total number of hospital beds and number of unoccupied hospital beds per 1,000 people as of 2018. For further analysis, see the brief here.

Source: 2018 American Hospital Association Annual Survey.
Notes: This figure shows total beds and unoccupied beds per 1,000 people in general medical and surgical nonfederal hospitals open to the public. Total beds are those set up and staffed at the facility at the end of the reporting period. See brief for additional methodological detail.

Research Areas Health and health care
Tags COVID-19
Policy Centers Health Policy Center