MGA predicts that 12.3 to 26.3 million people will be hospitalized in the U.S. because of the virus, placing extraordinary demand on the healthcare system.
"With this many hospitalizations expected, it will be difficult to keep hospitals fully stocked with medical supplies," said MGA principal Christy Robinson, a co-author of the report. "Hospitals have deferred elective procedures in part to preserve supplies. Anticipating the number of hospitalizations in the coming months will help decision-makers plan for resource constraints."
Analysts used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Pandemic Severity Assessment Framework to approximate pandemic-related hospitalizations under four scenarios using available COVID-19 data.
"For our analysis, we model attack rates of 25 and 40 percent and case-hospitalization ratios of 15 and 20 percent," the report said. The case-hospitalization ratio in New York is more than 20%, the authors noted.
Researchers will be better able to predict how the virus will affect hospitalizations as more data is collected nationwide, which will require significant improvements in testing and contact tracing.
Following 2009's H1N1 outbreak, the CDC developed its pandemic framework to help public health officials compare pandemics based on "two main factors that can be used to determine the impact of a pandemic," according to the agency.
"The first is clinical severity, or how serious is the illness associated with infection. The second factor is transmissibility, or how easily the pandemic virus spreads from person-to-person," according to the CDC.
Both COVID-19 and the 1918 influenza pandemic likely earn the highest possible scores for clinical severity and transmissibility—7 and 5, respectively—according to MGA. For comparison, 2009's H1N1 outbreak scored 2 for clinical severity and 3 for transmissibility.