KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Here we go again.
That is the message from doctors and hospitals in the Kansas City area as the number of COVID-19 cases begins to rise. Some areas are experiencing a jump in hospitalizations that doctors say haven’t been seen in a year.
“We are really close to the maximum [number] and I don’t think we’re at the peak yet. So I think this will be the highest we’ve ever seen with COVID,” said Liberty Hospital’s chief medical officer, Dr. Ragu Adiga, during an update provided by the University of Kansas Health System on Tuesday.
Leaders of a number of regional hospitals said COVID-19 cases are on the rise, and it’s happening even before the more contagious variant omicron arrives widely in the area.
“What we’re seeing is a rapid, the fastest escalation since the onset of COVID in the number of new cases coming in,” said Dr. Steve Stites, Chief Medical Officer at KU Health System. “So we know we’re looking at the corners, how quickly things escalate. And this is still the Delta variant. We see the fastest escalation in the curve.”
According to a COVID-19 dashboard via the Mid-America Regional Council, there were 176 new hospitalizations in Kansas City as of Friday, Dec. 3. That compares with 90 new hospital admissions on November 26.
Doctors at the hospitals in the region said they can currently handle the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, but aren’t sure how long that will take.
“We haven’t had to cancel any yet [elective surgeries] and day-to-day business. We continue to look at it, all options are on the table,” said Adiga. “We don’t want to delay anyone’s care. We know what happens when we delay care, so we don’t take it lightly.”
They also say they realize that if the number of hospitalizations from COVID continues to rise, at some point they may have no choice but to delay treatment.
“Of course we are concerned. I mean, we’ve seen an uptick in terms of people retention and I noticed this morning that there are 10 hospitals in the area with high volume, which clearly suggests they’re under some pressure,” Dr. Mark Steele, Chief said. Medical Officer at University Health.
Most health experts agree that the only way to really protect yourself from the virus is to get fully vaccinated, plus a booster. Doctors say they’re starting to see breakthrough cases of people who haven’t made the time to get that extra shot.
“I think a lot of the people who are fully vaccinated hope they don’t have to get that booster and the CDC. It’s only been a few weeks since the CDC said that’s good for everyone,” Stites said.
Another problem is the timing of the peak. Some people who gathered with people over Thanksgiving were exposed and tested positive. In addition, it has been several weeks since some mask mandates were lifted on the Kansas City subway.
“And I think that’s exactly what we’re seeing now. As a result, our numbers are increasing. But even in the northern reaches of the metropolitan area, things are moving even faster. I’m quite nervous about that,” Stites said.
Doctors and health experts said it’s critical that everyone who qualifies gets vaccinated as soon as possible and keeps up with boosters when the time comes.
“It’s really important that you get your injections and get your booster and maybe you get to spend your Christmas with your own family, not the hospital family and that’s what we’re doing our best to do,” Adiga said.