KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Health officials report COVID-19 case numbers, including those involving the omicron variant, are moving in the wrong directions again.

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County voted 6-4 on Thursday to end the county’s public indoor mask mandate.

The public health order ended weeks before its intended expiration date of January 6. Representatives from the county’s health department asked commissioners to vote against the mayor’s recommendation.

Public health officials echoed news from metro hospitals — case totals are rising sharply, hospitalizations are getting crowded again, and Christmas gatherings present more opportunities for infectious disease to spread further.

“The numbers are already rising as fast if not faster than at any time throughout this crisis,” Dr. Steven Stites from the University of Kansas Health System said.

Hospitals in the metro report their patient populations are getting larger again.

North Kansas City Hospital reported 20 more COVID patients than it had a year ago. St. Luke’s Health System has 129 COVID patients, as of Friday. That total is four times as many as it reported this summer when the delta variant challenged healthcare’s boundaries.

“I’m going to continue to monitor things and I’ll make that assessment as I go,” Garner said on Friday. “We’re going to take that and continue moving forward. I also encourage people to follow the recommendations of our medical providers, and those in that industry. Please consider getting your vaccinations.”

On Friday, the University of Kansas Health System organized a roundtable discussion of metro infectious disease specialists, some of whom commented that this surge in infections demands the public to wear masks.

“Decision makers have to understand the science and do what they need to do. It’s absolutely right. What they see and what we see are a little different,” Dr. Raghu Adiga, chief medical officer with Liberty Hospital, said.

Dr. Ginny Boos, an infectious disease expert with St. Luke’s Health System, said this surge is tied to Thanksgiving gatherings, where families and friends gathered without taking COVID precautions. Boos said the December holiday season presents more get-togethers, which could make matters worse.

“I still think as a community, a community of concerned citizens, masks are still the right thing,” Boos told FOX4.

Wyandotte County was one of the hardest-hit counties in Kansas during COVID’s strongest surges, Only 47% of people in that county are fully vaccinated.

Garner points out the UG’s health department offers free vaccines and testing for people who seek them.