ICU capacity explained: What to know about a key coronavirus metric in California

Coronavirus cases are surging, hospitalizations are rising and public health officials are increasingly watching an important metric: intensive care unit capacity.

The new stay-at-home order that hit 33 million people in Southern California recently was triggered when the region’s ICU availability slipped under 15%.

Public health officials fear that as the surge continues, hospitals could be overwhelmed — including the most vulnerable patients in the hospitals’ highest level care units. Staying home and preventing coronavirus infections will help hospitals manage the influx of patients. As officials wait and hope for the stay-at-home order to tame the surge, they are anxiously tracking ICU capacity.

Here’s what you need to know about ICU capacity and why it’s important at this stage of the pandemic.