‘This is a tornado warning to our community:’ KC doctors fear the worst with omicron

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City metro is in the middle of another COVID-19 surge and soon there won’t be enough hospital beds or staff to handle what’s coming our way. That’s the warning from leaders of hospitals in the Kansas City area. They say it doesn’t matter which hospital it is, resources are being stretched and doctors and nurses are struggling to keep up with demand.

Chief Medical Officers and experts from nearly a dozen medical centers and health systems made themselves available to answer questions during a COVID-19 update with the University of Kansas Health System Friday morning.

Each one listed COVID-19 patient numbers, the grim reality of what hospitals are experiencing the week before Christmas, and say this is proof that we need to do everything possible to once again bend the curve.

  • AdventHealth
    • 41 people hospitalized because of COVID-19
    • 13 deaths related to COVID-19 since the beginning of December
  • Children’s Mercy Hospital
    • 14 patients hospitalized because of COVID-19
    • Number of positive tests doubled from 200 at the beginning of December to 400 on Dec. 16
  • HCA Midwest Health
    • 151 people hospitalized because of COVID-19
    • COVID-19 patients have tripled in the past 3 weeks
    • No hospital beds available
    • COVID-19 death rate is above 11%
  • Kansas City VA
    • 17 people hospitalized because of COVID-19
    • 3 COVID-19 related deaths last week
    • Cases doubled since last week
    • Cases more than tripled since last month
  • Lawrence Memorial Hospital
    • 13 people hospitalized because of COVID-19
    • Closed to transfers from other hospitals
    • Struggling to get enough staff
  • Liberty Hospital
    • 33 people hospitalized because of COVID-19
    • 90% of patients are unvaccinated
    • Staff reports feeling tired and overworked because of surge
  • North Kansas City Hospital
    • 106 people hospitalized because of COVID-19
    • Nov. 1 hospital had 19 cases, Dec. 17 hospital has 90 cases
  • Olathe Health
    • 41 people hospitalized because of COVID-19 (This is near the hospital’s high for 2020)
    • Struggling to find enough staff
  • University Health
    • 62 people hospitalized because of COVID-19
      • Double from a week ago
      • 6 times higher than a month ago
    • 9 COVID-19 related deaths in December
    • Hospitals currently very full

Leaders at all of the Kansas City-area hospitals say these numbers do not include the omicron variant. They expect to it sweep into the area soon and say that while symptoms may not be as severe as the delta variant, omicron is much more transmittable.

“Omicron is at our doorstep. This is a tornado warning to our community,” said Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System.

The timing of omicron’s arrival is going to be problematic, according to local experts, because mask mandates have expired, everyone is going inside because it’s colder, and seasonal viruses like the flu and RSV are hitting at the same time. Potential cases of the omicron variant have already been detected in both Kansas and Missouri.

They suggest rethinking Christmas gatherings and celebrations, or limiting them to an extremely small number of people.

Health experts agree that the unvaccinated will take the brunt of the omicron illness. They also warned that it’s no longer good enough to be fully vaccinated. If you are eligible, you also need to get a booster as soon as possible.

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