Costa Rica at the limit of its ICU capacity

There are 1,024 people hospitalized with Covid-19, and 403 in the ICU.

Costa Rica has reached the limits of its national ICU capacity for coronavirus patients.

The Health Ministry on Monday reported a record 1,024 people hospitalized with Covid-19 across Costa Rica. Of those, 403 were in an intensive-care bed.

Because some of those are at private hospitals, there remain a very limited number of public ICU beds available nationwide. Still, the current situation is “without precedent,” says Health Minister Daniel Salas, and it has led to substandard care for patients of all pathologies.

Twenty-four people in Costa Rica died of Covid-19 on Monday. To put that in context: Respiratory viruses killed 23 people in Costa Rica in all of 2018.

Let’s see how the situation has unfolded:

New cases contribute spiking

After averaging fewer than 400 new coronavirus cases per day in February, Costa Rica is averaging nearly than 1,200 new cases since April 1. 

The seven-day rolling average of new cases in Costa Rica shows the recent spike in context of the entire pandemic: 

Hospitalizations and deaths are rising 

These are, of course, the most important statistics of all. How many people are ending up in the hospital with Covid-19, and how many people are dying? 

Hospitalization numbers are surging, and ICU patients have reached Costa Rica’s national capacity: 

Notably, the average age of Costa Rica’s ICU patients has dropped significantly to 55 years old. This is perhaps related to the country’s higher vaccination rates among older populations.

Deaths are a lagging indicator, because it usually take weeks after a Covid-19 diagnosis for a patient to die. Still, the number of daily deaths is climbing sharply:

Costa Rica has ordered new restrictions for early May and has asked for surplus vaccine donations from the United States.

At this point, though, both moves are too late: Some percentage of those who got infected today will require hospitalization, and some percentage of those will die. Others will survive but have side effects for weeks or months.

The balance between supporting economic activity and safeguarding community health is a difficult one. I don’t pretend to know the right answer, nor do I envy the leaders who must make these difficult decisions.


All graphs were created by The Costa Rica Daily using official Covid data

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