Importance: Sustained spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has happened in major US cities. Capacity needs in cities in China could inform the planning of local health care resources.
Objectives: To describe and compare the intensive care unit (ICU) and inpatient bed needs for patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in 2 cities in China to estimate the peak ICU bed needs in US cities if an outbreak equivalent to that in Wuhan occurs.
Design, setting, and participants: This comparative effectiveness study analyzed the confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wuhan and Guangzhou, China, from January 10 to February 29, 2020.
Exposures: Timing of disease control measures relative to timing of SARS-CoV-2 community spread.
Main outcomes and measures: Number of critical and severe patient-days and peak number of patients with critical and severe illness during the study period.
Results: In Wuhan, strict disease control measures were implemented 6 weeks after sustained local transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Between January 10 and February 29, 2020, patients with COVID-19 accounted for a median (interquartile range) of 429 (25-1143) patients in the ICU and 1521 (111-7202) inpatients with serious illness each day. During the epidemic peak, 19 425 patients (24.5 per 10 000 adults) were hospitalized, 9689 (12.2 per 10 000 adults) were considered in serious condition, and 2087 (2.6 per 10 000 adults) needed critical care per day. In Guangzhou, strict disease control measures were implemented within 1 week of case importation. Between January 24 and February 29, COVID-19 accounted for a median (interquartile range) of 9 (7-12) patients in the ICU and 17 (15-26) inpatients with serious illness each day. During the epidemic peak, 15 patients were in critical condition and 38 were classified as having serious illness. The projected number of prevalent critically ill patients at the peak of a Wuhan-like outbreak in US cities was estimated to range from 2.2 to 4.4 per 10 000 adults, depending on differences in age distribution and comorbidity (ie, hypertension) prevalence.
Conclusions and relevance: Even after the lockdown of Wuhan on January 23, the number of patients with serious COVID-19 illness continued to rise, exceeding local hospitalization and ICU capacities for at least a month. Plans are urgently needed to mitigate the consequences of COVID-19 outbreaks on the local health care systems in US cities.