Failure to ‘flatten curve’ may kill more people than we thought

Researchers have shown an association exists between hospital bed use and COVID-19 mortality in and outside of hospitals.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

New research by the University of Minnesota and the University of Washington finds that every six additional ICU beds or seven additional non-ICU beds filled by COVID-19 patients leads to one additional COVID-19 death over the following week.

“A spike in hospitalization naturally leads to more deaths, but these deaths may not only come from those who are hospitalized, but also from those who should have been hospitalized but were not,” said co-author Anirban Basu, a UW professor of health economics.

Results of the study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, show the impact of ICU bed use remains fairly constant as ICU bed availability changes. These effects are also in line with recent literature estimates for the mortality among COVID-19 patients receiving critical care that show mortality rates increase as ICUs fill up.

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