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Map shows how hospitals are creeping toward COVID-19 capacity

States are speckled with different hues of yellow and orange on the map. The darker the shade, the more hospitals are filled up.

For the first time, more than 3,000 patients are battling COVID-19 in Tennessee hospital beds, with 163 patients getting treatment for the virus in Knox County.

A new, interactive map highlights hospitals already dangerously full. In hospitals across the state of Tennessee, more patients than ever are lying in beds with COVID-19.

"Unfortunately, our hospitals could feel that impact as we move into January," Knox County Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan said during a Tuesday briefing.

The state said it's running out of options to keep the hospital system functioning, while Knox County medical staff are planning for a possible post-holiday surge.

"They're working together, they're meeting daily to discuss case counts and strategize," Buchanan said of area hospitals.

A map by the University of Minnesota and NPR, created using federal data released Monday, shows what capacity behind those hospital doors looks like.

Note: This story was updated at 11.30 a.m. ET Monday, Dec. 28, and will be updated periodically, as new data are released. The federal government on Monday released an updated set of detailed hospital-level data showing the toll COVID-19 is taking on health care facilities, including how many inpatient and ICU beds are available on a weekly basis.

As of Tuesday, according to the map, in all of Knox County, 22 percent of beds are filled with COVID-19 patients.

In Cocke County, the adult in-patient beds are completely full, with 64 percent of them filled with virus-positive patients.

The only hospital in Cocke County is Tennova Newport Medical Center. Tennova spokes person Ann Metz said in a statement:

"The number of hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators across the region fluctuates frequently depending on patient census and other factors. This data only represents a moment in time, becoming outdated almost as soon as it’s released."

"Cocke County has fewer ICU beds than Knox County does, since it's a smaller county with a smaller population," Buchanan said, although she was not able to comment fully on the reasoning in the percentage difference between Knox and Cocke counties without seeing the exact data on Tuesday.

Across the nation, states are speckled with different hues of yellow and orange on the map. The darker the shade, the more hospitals are filled up.

Last week, Dr. Lisa Piercey, the state's commissioner for the Department of Health, said a quarter of patients in Tennessee hospital beds are COVID-19 positive and 40 percent of all ICU beds in the state are filled with COVID-19 patients.

With vaccines en route and in high demand, health officials are hopeful for a change in trends.

Health leaders said despite the virus surge, it's still important to go to the hospital if you are sick and need immediate medical help.


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