Concerns over return to masks, other restrictions grow as COVID-19 cases climb in Kansas City

Tracking Coronavirus

FILE – In this May 14, 2021, file photo, signs instruct visitors on the proper way to wear masks at the Universal City Walk in Universal City, Calif. California is keeping its rules for wearing facemasks in place until the state more broadly lifts its pandemic restrictions on June 15. State officials said Monday, May 17 that the delay will give people time to prepare, and for the state to make sure that virus cases stay low. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Kansas City metro may be nearing a critical tipping point, according to some health experts.

As the number of COVID-19 cases climb across Missouri, hospitals in the metro report steady increases of both new cases and COVID-19 hospitalizations. Doctors and nurses at the University of Kansas Health System said it’s a trend they’ve seen coming.

“Increases all around over the weekend, from what we saw last week,” Lance Williamson, RN infection and prevention and control manager, said during a COVID-19 update Monday.

Sunday, the number of new cases in the metro jumped more than 30% over the previous week, according to data tracked by the Mid America Regional Council. MARC also reported the average daily new hospitalizations increased nearly 14% over the past week.

As the number of COVID-19 cases creep up again, talk about mask mandates and other restrictions return to the conversation. Williamson said those restrictions may not be far off, if things don’t improve in the metro quickly.

“If it keeps increasing, then we may need to make changes based off of what we know works in our communities to prevent spread. In addition to vaccines,” Williamson said.

Mask mandates, restrictions on operating hours, and capacity limits were some of the things that worked to bend the curve last year. The KC metro also closed bars, restaurants, and other businesses for weeks to help get the outbreak under control.

No one is saying that a shutdown will happen again, at least not yet. But leaders are starting to talk about what will happen if the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 continues to climb.

The city of Independence has already reissued a health advisory urging people to return to wearing masks inside public areas. That advisory came after a jump in cases caused by the Delta variant.

At this point, hospitals report the majority of people admitted because of COVID-19 are not vaccinated. The average age hospitalized because of the virus also dropped dramatically.

The vaccine is widely available for people age 12 and older. Hospitals, retail pharmacies, and county health departments are offering vaccine clinics weekly. Many have walk-in availability.

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