ICU Hospital Capacity

The justification for emergency powers and “lockdown” was to slow down the number of people dying so healthcare facilities wouldn’t be overwhelmed. Data shows facilities were never in jeopardy of being overwhelmed.


Note that they have changed their reporting from early in the year. At the start of the year they reported that our ICU capacity was 2,595 including beds that could be made ready within 72 hours. On May 30th we hit a peak of 263 people in ICU with COVID. The non-COVID ICU use dwarfs the COVID needs.

So even at “peak” we were at only 10% of potential quick response capacity.

The current chart shows that we peaked in early December with just under 400 COVID cases in ICU. One thing to keep in mind is that when they say “hospitals are overwhelmed” it is not all hospitals, it may just be one hospital at a time that gets a surge.

As far as we can tell, currently anyone sick with a respiratory illness is considered COVID so the statistics are artificially high.


For those interested in looking at the ICU situation across the USA, this website is handy. Keep in mind that “capacity” is usually quoted as “staffed capacity” which is less than half of what is available in an emergency. If there was a true emergency it looks like the problem would be lack of staff, not lack of rooms/beds.

Welcome to the wonderful world of confusing data. Unfortunately we have a ton of data available which lacks explanations and definitions. It is certainly confusing that they say some data is from 2018. I think we have to accept that not all hospitals are going to give current data on how many ICU beds they have etc – you just can’t sample that constantly in real time. So we end up with datasets that include “last known data”.

You can zoom in on the map and hover over any region and get breakdowns of how many beds there are and what the occupancy rate is. For example we can see that in Scott county they show ZERO staffed ICU beds yet we know that Scott county does have ICU beds!

If we download the raw data we can see that on November 27, 2020 Minnesota has 1,848 staffed ICU beds that is a lot higher than the 1,212 that the Minnesota government site shows currently!

Another peek we can do is to look at Fairview in Burnsville which claims 12 staffed ICU beds and we can conclude that roughly 10 of those beds are in use (but probably with only a couple COVID patients).

So to make it simple, my conclusion basically is that we are fed misleading data, inaccurate data and if we look at the raw data the situation simply isn’t as scary as the narrative makes it seem.

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