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There's a growing fear the U.S. will have to ration hospital beds like Iran or Italy (above). Photo: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Every corner of the U.S. is at risk for a severe shortage of hospital beds as the coronavirus outbreak worsens, according to new simulations from Harvard, mapped out by ProPublica and the New York Times.

Why it matters: Total nationwide capacity for health care supplies doesn't always matter, because hospitals in one area can help out neighboring systems when they're overwhelmed by a crisis. But these projections indicate that won't be an option with the coronavirus — everybody will be hurting at the same time.

By the numbers: Harvard's projections show if 50% of all currently occupied hospital beds were emptied and sizable percentages of Americans were infected, the country would need at least three times more beds to care for everyone.

  • "No market would be spared," Harvard's Ashish Jha wrote.

Those models line up with James Lawler, an infectious disease doctor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center who forecasted in a recent presentation to hospital insiders that the U.S. may eventually have as many as 96 million cases, resulting in 4.8 million hospitalizations. He told Axios he stands by those projections.

  • The U.S. has 924,000 total hospital beds, or less than three beds for every 1,000 people. Roughly 5% of those beds are in standard intensive care units, where the sickest coronavirus patients would need to go.

Hospitals closures have laid a groundwork that could make this problem worse, reducing the total capacity in a given area while shifting more patients into the hospitals that remain.

  • For example, after Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia closed last year, surrounding hospitals had to take on those patients and don't have a lot of room for a coronavirus surge.
  • "That [closure] has put a particular strain on the regional health care system," said Darilyn Moyer, the head of the American College of Physicians who works at Temple University's health system.

The bottom line: "I don't think our health system is prepared," Lawler said. "If we can reduce the surge, we can potentially help our hospitals, but they have a long way to go."

Go deeper: The coronavirus crisis has to focus on "flattening the curve"

Go deeper

23 mins ago - Health

CDC updates guidance on airborne COVID-19

A patron eats lunch in March at Philippe The Original near downtown Los Angeles. Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The CDC acknowledged Friday that airborne spread of COVID-19 among people more than 6 feet apart "has been repeatedly documented."

Why it matters: This is "a change from the agency’s previous position that most infections were acquired through 'close contact, not airborne transmission,'" the N.Y. Times reports.

11 hours ago - World

Over 170 Palestinians injured in clashes with Israeli police in Jerusalem

An injured man is carried away as Israeli security forces clash with Palestinian protesters at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

At least 178 Palestinians have been injured in clashes with Israeli police in Jerusalem, Reuters reported late Friday.

The big picture: The clashes come amid growing anger over the threatened eviction of Palestinians from their homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem. Tensions have also escalated in the occupied West Bank in recent weeks.

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases hit a seven-month low — Majority back vaccine proof requirements for travel, schools and work — The race to avoid a possible "monster" COVID variant.
  2. Politics: Oklahoma secures $2.6 million refund for hydroxychloroquine purchase — Why Biden's latest vaccine goal is his hardest yet.
  3. Vaccines: Pfizer begins application for full FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccine — Moderna says its COVID booster shot shows promise against variants.
  4. Economy: U.S. adds just 266,000 jobs in April, far below expectations — Americans' return to the skies could benefit smaller airlines.
  5. World: WHO authorizes China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use — Mixed response in Europe to Biden's vaccine patents bombshell.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.