Projections of how hospitals would cope with different covid-19
scenarios. Click on the image to enlarge it. (ProPublica map)
"Though the U.S. health care system is projected to be overwhelmed by an influx of patients infected with the novel coronavirus, the pressure on hospitals will vary dramatically across the country. That’s according to new data released by the Harvard Global Health Institute, which for the first time gives a sense of which regions will be particularly stressed and should be preparing most aggressively right now," ProPublica reports.

ProPublica presents nine scenarios that show how hospitals across the nation would cope if the infection "curve" presented differently. For example, in the mildest scenario, if 20 percent of adults were infected over 18 months, hospitals could generally handle it. In the worst-case scenario, in which 60% of the population is infected over six months, virtually all hospitals in the nation would be overwhelmed. You can enter your ZIP code into a search bar in the ProPublica story to receive a custom chart and numbers for your hospital referral region; boundaries for those can be found in the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care.

Rural hospital systems may have a greater ability to deal with more patients since there are fewer potential patients to begin with, the research suggests. But rural hospitals may have less experienced staff and less equipment to care for complex cases. That's the case with rural hospitals in Kentucky, hospital and public-health officials told Bill Estep and Will Wright of the Lexington Herald-Leader.