Intensive care units have specially-trained staff and sophisticated equipment, such as bedside machines to monitor a patient’s heart rate and ventilators to help them breathe. But not all counties have hospitals with ICU beds, and even in those that do, the numbers vary wildly: Some have just one bed for thousands of residents age 60 and up, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis based on a review of data hospitals report each year to the federal government.
Older patients face the highest risk of serious illness or death from the spread of COVID-19.
Within California, San Francisco County, with one bed for every 532 older residents, and Los Angeles County, with 847 residents per bed, both have greater bed availability than does Santa Cruz with one bed for every 2,601 older residents. In California, 11 of 58 counties lack a single ICU bed.
Some counties that skew older are among the ones with the least availability of ICU beds. For instance, one-third of the residents of Nevada County, in the foothills of the Sierra-Nevada mountains, are 60 or older, but there are 3,361 of them for each ICU bed.