Independence closer to mask decision, as hospitals look farther away for bed space

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Independence Mayor Eileen Weir is set to make a decision on whether or not to issue a new mask mandate in the next few days, as hospitals in the area are nearly overrun with COVID patients.

That was the topic of discussion at the Independence City Council’s study session on the impacts the virus is having on the city.

A spokesperson with the health department said that cases of COVID-19 have increased in Independence from about 20 new cases per day in July to about 80 per day now.

The sharp increase in cases means that hospitals are running out of room to treat severely ill patients.

“I think we’re in really bad shape right now with our hospitals,” said Christina Heinen, Public Health Program Director with the Independence Health Department.

“Our chief medical officers are crying out for help. They are seeing record numbers of patients in their hospitals. They’re having problems moving them and actually hospitalizing them because they have so many people coming in, they’re seeing 95% occupancy for their beds. Some of them are absolutely completely full. We’re having some hospitals report negative bed space,” Heinen said.

The number of people getting vaccinated is also increasing, with about 230 people per week getting the jab, a sharp jump from the average of 50 people per week previously.

Independence is the only large jurisdiction in Jackson County that does not currently have a mask mandate.

An indoor mask mandate went into effect for people over the age of 5 in Kansas City, Missouri on Aug. 2. A similar mandate went into effect in Jackson County Aug. 9.

Independence, however, has their own health department, which falls outside the purview of Jackson County’s order.

Mayor Weir says that she’s listening to health officials, and while the CDC says one thing, Independence might need something else.

“I’m inclined to think that we need to do something that’s more specific to our area that maybe isn’t quite to the letter of what the CDC is recommending because, of course, they’re making rules for the entire nation, and we need to be really aware of what’s happening in our own community.”

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