EXPLAINER: What are 'Crisis Standards of Care?'

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As the spread of the delta variant continues unabated in much of the U.S., public health leaders have approved health care rationing in Idaho and parts of Alaska and Montana.

At least five more states — Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas — are nearing capacity with more than 90% of their intensive care unit beds full, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The move to ration healthcare comes amid a spike in the number of unvaccinated COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization. Crisis standards of care allow health care providers to give scarce resources, like ventilators, to the patients most likely to survive.

But determining who gets what is no easy feat.

What are ‘Crisis standards of care?’

Crisis standards of care give legal and ethical guidelines to health care providers when they have too many patients and not enough resources to care for them all. Essentially, they spell out exactly how health care should be rationed in order to save the most lives possible during a disaster.

Some health care rationing steps have become commonplace during the pandemic, with hospitals postponing elective surgeries and some physicians switching to online visits rather than seeing patients in person. But

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