Tracking ICU beds reveals potential holes in treatment

Only 47 percent of U.S. counties have even one ICU bed and only 29 percent of U.S. counties have more than nine ICU beds.

Why are ICU beds so important? They serve as health monitoring stations that let medical staffs track how a patient is doing, looking at measures such as heart rate and oxygen level in the blood. Many also have ventilators. They are crucial parts of fighting any major health challenge such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

And the ICU shortage is even more of a concern in counties with larger populations of those 60 or older.

There are about 540 counties where 30 percent or more of the population is in the 60-or-older group and only 124 of those counties have even one ICU bed. The counties in that situation (high-risk group/no ICU beds) span the country. There are 20 such counties in Virginia. There are 40 in Nebraska. Texas has 43 of them.

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