This page, COVID-19 Hospital Capacity and Surge Response, is part of

COVID-19 Hospital Capacity and Surge Response

Learn about the COVID-19 Response Command Center's work to monitor hospital capacity and respond to surge needs

Table of Contents

Hospital capacity

Hospitals throughout the Commonwealth have been providing acute medical care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Since May, hospitals and other healthcare facilities now provide the full spectrum of healthcare services, including preventive care, and are required to adhere to the policies put in place under the Commonwealths’ Reopening Guidance.

The state is actively monitoring multiple public health and healthcare indicators, including testing capacity, COVID test positivity rate, new COVID cases and hospitalizations, COVID mortality, and the number of hospitals using surge capacity. As flu season continues, the state is also closely monitoring flu indicators and prepared to address both COVID-19 and flu illness as necessary.

Alternate Medical Sites

To mitigate stress on health care system as cases increase, the state is establishing alternate medical sites (or “Field Medical Stations”). These sites will ensure hospitals have the support they need to continue to serve residents throughout the Commonwealth. The state will continue to closely monitor indicators and if additional capacity is necessary to support the health care system, the state is prepared to stand up additional alternate medical site capacity. Further details on the two Massachusetts sites, including admission criteria and contact information, can be found at:

In addition, DPH has contracted with ambulance services in each of the five EMS Regions to help ensure transport capability to alternate medical sites in the event that routine EMS transport resources are unable to meet the need.

  • Hospitals who need to transport a COVID patient to an alternate medical site and are unable to locate an ambulance service to transport the patient, should contact the OPEM Duty Officer at 617-339-8351.  
  • The Duty Officer will contact the EMS Service’s comms/dispatch center, and request them to initiate contact with the sending hospital to assist with facilitating transport.

During the current COVID-19 surge, Massachusetts hospitals facing capacity and staffing challenges may use this downloadable flyer to assure patients who arrive that excellent health care is available to every individual in the Commonwealth:


Crisis Standards of Care Planning Guidance for the COVID-19 Pandemic

On October 20, 2020, DPH issued revised Crisis Standards of Care Planning Guidance for the COVID-19 Pandemic. (Accessible version)

This Guidance provides direction for the triage of critically ill patients in the event that the public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic creates a demand for in-patient critical care resources that outstrips supply. It seeks to ensure that every patient has equitable access to care from which they might benefit, and that tragically difficult decisions about the allocation of scarce in-patient care resources must be grounded only on evidence-based criteria that are clear, transparent, and objective; biological factors related only to the likelihood and magnitude of benefit from the medical resources; and should at all times minimize inequitable outcomes.  Hopefully, these guidelines will never need to be activated.