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TOPEKA, Kan. — Coronavirus cases are spreading in vulnerable communities as Kansas hospitals face mounting obstacles to help incoming patients.

Cindy Samuelson, a spokesperson for the Kansas Hospital Association, said on Tuesday that the amount of patients needing critical care is increasing, as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads.

“Nearly all of the state of Kansas is experiencing challenge with seeing COVID patients with the Delta variant,” Samuelson said.

According to health officials, the variant is more than twice as infectious as other strains of coronavirus. Delta variant cases in the state continue to increase. So far, state data shows 2,518 cases of the variant have been identified.

Samuelson said hospitals are now in a “dire situation,” especially those in rural communities, as they struggle under mounting pressure, running out of available beds and staff to help critical patients. According to data released by the state health department, as of Tuesday, about 61% of the state’s ICU beds are filled, leaving less than half open for patients needing care. The data also shows that more than one-quarter of beds being used are filled with coronavirus patients.

Samuelson said during the pandemic, some of the critical patients hospitals are seeing have issues related to “delayed care.” Some patients are having to travel or be transferred miles, sometimes out of state, to get the help they need.

While efforts are being made to help hospitals manage, Samuelson is urging Kansans to take the necessary steps to keep their community and healthcare workers safe. She said that includes avoiding large crowds, practicing proper hygiene, and getting vaccinated.

“The most important short-term solution we can do is keeping our staff healthy,” she said. “We know we have some breakthrough cases. If the community spread can be impacted and reduced, that means more of our healthcare workers will be able to stay healthy and stay in the workplace.”

This comes as coronavirus cases continue to surge in vulnerable communities. State numbers show Kansas nursing homes account for a large portion of active cases and clusters in the state. As of Tuesday, long-term care facilities account for 361 active cases, and 46 out of 137 active clusters. An active cluster or outbreak means that there has been at least one new case identified at the facility within the last 28 days, or two incubation periods for COVID-19 disease.

It’s riling up some organizations, like AARP, which is calling for nursing homes to require vaccines for all workers, to address the issue.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, also spoke about the need for coronavirus vaccinations on Tuesday, echoing pleas from state health officials, as cases increase.

“We know that the only way to calm this down, and to prevent another surge is for people to get vaccinated,” she said.