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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — As America celebrates Independence Day, doctors warn we aren’t free from the danger of COVID-19 or its variants.

While some aspects of the Fourth of July weekend differ between 2020 and 2021, others are much the same. In 2021, swimming pools are open, large gatherings are organized and public fireworks displays are planned. But, in 2021, just like in 2020, doctors are warning of the danger of spiking COVID-19 cases across the country.

“Yes, it is a concern. July 4,” Dr. Raghu Adiga, chief medical officer at Liberty Hospital, said during an update with The University of Kansas Health System. “Mostly those gatherings happen to be outside rather than indoors. That’s a plus, but again, not always.”

Missouri is currently a hotspot for COVID-19 cases, with Springfield facing a dangerous surge, but cases are also increasing in Kansas City and St. Louis. Data from the state of Missouri shows its 7-day case average doubling over the past month. Tuesday, The 7-day rolling average for cases in Missouri sat at 583. Exactly one month ago, the state rolling average was 279. The majority of those COVID-19 cases are the Delta variant.

“The Delta virus is a lesson for us, and we’re learning it the hard way, especially if you’re down around the Springfield, Branson, area, you’re learning the hard way. If you’re not vaccinated, you’re not safe,” Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System, said.

Branson, Lake of the Ozarks, and other popular spots in Missouri are expecting large crowds over the Independence Day holiday weekend.

The spike in Missouri, along with vacations and large gatherings, worries leaders in Kansas who are concerned the surge will cause a higher number of COVID-19 cases to spread across the state line.

Wednesday, the state of Kansas launched a new PSA campaign urging people to get vaccinated.

During an update on Facebook Thursday morning, the University of Kansas Health System warned that hospitals in the Kansas City metro are already full because of illnesses other than COVID-19. They warn that a large surge following the holiday weekend will be dangerous.

“One of the things we should be afraid of is that hospitals are full and they’re full throughout our community,” Stites said. “That’s because all the normal stuff is back out there again. As masks have come off what we’re seeing is that people are getting sick.

“Routine colds, heart failure acting up, all of the things that would happen to us normally are happening now. And just to say we’re not usually this full in June, but we’re really full. And everybody’s really full. So if we have a surge, trouble will come a lot sooner this time than it did last time.”

Health experts warn the Delta variant is much more transmissible than other strains of coronaviruses. The say the best protection against COVID-19 and the Delta variant is to get vaccinated, something health departments in both Missouri and Kansas are struggling to convince people to do.

“There’s just not a lot of defense against not getting vaccinated except, I’m gonna say it, paranoia,” Stites said.

“I understand fear, everybody has the right to make that choice on their own, I have a fundamental belief in that. But at some point, you have to ask yourself, are you really safer not getting vaccinated when over 2 billion doses of vaccine have been administered throughout the world and people have not died from the vaccine? It’s just unheard of. You know what’s not unheard of? Dying of COVID-19.”

Something else that’s not unheard of are cities and countries that are going backwards are reinstating restrictions because of a concerning spike in COVID-19 cases. Los Angeles County, Britain, and Israel have taken steps to try to stop another surge in cases.

“It’s all about the people who aren’t immunized,” Stites said. “I think we need to be really concerned and I’m not saying it’s time to do that in Kansas City, but I’m saying we may enter into that, so I just urge everyone out there, over the holiday weekend to please be safe and remember, the rules of infection control, whether they’re required or not, are the rules that will keep you safe and if you’re not vaccinated, you frickin’ need to have a mask on. If you don’t have a mask on you’re throwing the dice.”

Many retail pharmacies, grocery stores, and health departments have walk-in vaccination times available, no appointment necessary. Check with yours for availability if you need to get vaccinated.