These 6 States Have Half of All COVID Hospitalizations in the U.S.

These places make up the majority of the increase in patients nationwide.

Since it began, the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic has largely been measured by the average number of new cases on any given day. A significant spike in new infections typically has meant that doctors could anticipate new waves of patients in the coming days as the virus ran its course and conditions worsened. Thankfully, existing vaccines have proven to be excellent at preventing severe illness or death in the vast majority of cases, making the most recent surges much different than the earliest days of the pandemic. But after a month-long increase in cases, the U.S. is now seeing a steady rise in hospitalizations that is affecting a small number of states more than others.

Figures from the past two weeks show that as cases climb nationwide, more than 30 states have seen a rise in patients admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 over the past two weeks, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) analyzed by NBC News. But of those states, just six have seen more than half of all new hospitalizations nationwide.

The most recent increase began along with the latest sustained surge in cases. We started November averaging around 45,000 daily hospitalizations, but that number has increased 20 percent over the past two weeks to 61,936 as of Dec. 8, according to data from The New York Times. While the numbers are still far below the all-time pandemic high of more than 137,000 recorded last winter, experts say the latest increase is still weighing heavily upon the healthcare system.

"The bottom line is COVID-19 is not only life-threatening for those who have COVID-19," Marschall Runge, MD, PhD, CEO of Michigan Medicine and dean of the University of Michigan Medical School, told USA Today. "The surge of COVID-19 is putting others at risk by keeping us from delivering lifesaving care," he said, further explaining that the ability to handle other medical emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes was suffering due to the strain placed on medical resources.

Unfortunately, some areas have seen many more COVID patients than others. Read on to see which six states have half of all new COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S., according to data from HHS analyzed by NBC News.

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6
Indiana

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  • Increase in hospitalizations between Nov. 10 and Dec. 5: 1,095 patients
  • Share of new beds nationwide: 7.64 percent

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Indiana have nearly doubled since Nov. 10, according to data from HHS. The state's seven-day average for hospitalizations was 2,535 as of Dec. 8, according to data from The Times.

"Our hospital is pretty much full," Thomas Huth, MD, vice president for medical affairs at Reid Health, told local Indianapolis FOX affiliate WXIN. "We're sitting at or beyond capacity."

5
Illinois

Illinois
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  • Increase in hospitalizations between Nov. 10 and Dec. 5: 1,187 patients
  • Share of new beds nationwide: 8.29 percent

Data for Illinois shows that hospitalizations in the state have also doubled since Nov. 10. "We're seeing [more] younger people getting sick with COVID than we did a year ago," Stephen Bartlett, MD, Chief Medical Officer at OSF HealthCare, told local Rockford, Illinois ABC affiliate WTVO. "I can't emphasize enough that we're in the middle of another surge."

However, according to Sandra Martell, director of the Winnebago County Health Department, only 13 percent of patients who have been admitted to hospitals have been fully vaccinated. "It's very rare for an ICU stay for people who are vaccinated," Bartlett told WTVO. "It's a much milder infection if you're vaccinated."

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4
New York

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  • Increase in hospitalizations between Nov. 10 and Dec. 5: 1,261 patients
  • Share of new beds nationwide: 8.8 percent

Data shows a stark geographical divide in COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York. While the seven-day average per 100,000 in New York City rose from 0.5 on Nov. 10 to 1.1 on Dec. 7, northern areas of the state saw a much more significant jump as the Finger Lake Region reported an increase from 2.9 on to 4.9 during the same period, ABC News reports.

"At the end of the day, you're more likely to get severe COVID-19 symptoms and go to the hospital if you're not vaccinated," David Larsen, PhD, an associate professor of public health at Syracuse University, tells ABC News. He added that the counties with higher hospitalization rates upstate also have lower vaccination rates.

3
Pennsylvania

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  • Increase in hospitalizations between Nov. 10 and Dec. 5: 1,452 patients
  • Share of new beds nationwide: 10.14 percent

A recent spike has brought COVID-19 hospitalizations in Pennsylvania to their highest point since January. As of Dec. 8, the state's seven-day average was 4,680, representing a 26 percent increase over the past two weeks, according to The Times.

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2
Ohio

cityscape photo of Roebling Suspension Bridge in and skyline of Cincinnati, Ohio
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  • Increase in hospitalizations between Nov. 10 and Dec. 5: 1,573 patients
  • Share of new beds nationwide: 10.98 percent

During a press conference on Dec. 2, state health officials in Ohio warned that hospitalizations in the state were nearing the record highs reported there last January. The state's seven-day average for hospitalized patients was 4,504 as of Dec. 8, according to The Times.

"Almost every hospital really doesn't have the elasticity that maybe we had this time last year to really expand capacity on a short-term notice when there's a flood or surge in local patients," Andy Thomas, MD, with Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, said during the briefing. "If these trends continue through the month of December into January, we will be at a point where the hospitals in Ohio will not be able to take care of all the patients we need to take care of."

1
Michigan

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  • Increase in hospitalizations between Nov. 10 and Dec. 5: 1,896 patients
  • Share of new beds nationwide: 13.23 percent

Data shows that hospitalizations in Michigan are up 70 percent since Nov. 10, NBC News reports. But according to Chelsea Wuth, an associate public information officer at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, three out of every four COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. She adds that they also account for 87 percent of intensive care unit admissions in Michigan.

"We've been doing this for so long," Matthew Sims, MD, a physician and director of infectious disease research at Beaumont Health, told NBC News, adding that "almost all" of the patients he's seeing are unvaccinated. "It does get tiring to the nurses, the doctors, everybody when we see this huge number of patients that are all coming in that are not vaccinated."

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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