Disease and healthcare burden of COVID-19 in the United States

Ian F. Miller, Alexander D. Becker, Bryan T. Grenfell, C. Jessica E. Metcalf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

311 Scopus citations


As of 24 April 2020, the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic has resulted in over 830,000 confirmed infections in the United States1. The incidence of COVID-19, the disease associated with this new coronavirus, continues to rise. The epidemic threatens to overwhelm healthcare systems, and identifying those regions where the disease burden is likely to be high relative to the rest of the country is critical for enabling prudent and effective distribution of emergency medical care and public health resources. Globally, the risk of severe outcomes associated with COVID-19 has consistently been observed to increase with age2,3. We used age-specific mortality patterns in tandem with demographic data to map projections of the cumulative case burden of COVID-19 and the subsequent burden on healthcare resources. The analysis was performed at the county level across the United States, assuming a scenario in which 20% of the population of each county acquires infection. We identified counties that will probably be consistently, heavily affected relative to the rest of the country across a range of assumptions about transmission patterns, such as the basic reproductive rate, contact patterns and the efficacy of quarantine. We observed a general pattern that per capita disease burden and relative healthcare system demand may be highest away from major population centers. These findings highlight the importance of ensuring equitable and adequate allocation of medical care and public health resources to communities outside of major urban areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1212-1217
Number of pages6
JournalNature Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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