The Coronavirus epidemic which is rapidly spreading in the US is going to put a massive strain on the healthcare system. Estimates on the percentage of cases which will require hospitalization vary a lot, but in South Korea, Italy, and China the demand for hospital beds has completely overwhelmed the available supply. In China they had to construct two emergency hospitals to keep up with demand. There is no reason to think that the demand on hospital resources will be different here in the US.

In this context, a report published yesterday in the Washington Post makes it clear that hospitals in the US are drastically unprepared for this. Mass General Hospital in Boston is ranked #2 in the US and has completed a series of special preparations for viral outbreaks put in place after the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003. Even so, the report describes a hospital that is struggling to cope with the relatively small number of cases reported so far in Massachusetts. Supplies are running low, health workers are scrambling to respond, and they are having to put in place all sorts of emergency measures.

If this is the situation at the #2 ranked hospital in the country, what is the situation going to be in rural parts of the US which are seeing an epidemic of hospital closures?