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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The number of COVID-19 cases are beginning to creep up again in the Kansas City metro, and health experts warn the actual case count is likely higher than even the current rates show.

They point to lower testing over Thanksgiving weekend as well as a lag in results being reported over the holiday.

Doctors at the University of Kansas Health System reported a total of 41 patients hospitalized because of COVID-19 Tuesday morning. They said the number of COVID patients hasn’t been that high since Oct. 20, before mask mandates began to expire.

“Not the kind of numbers we want to see, but we shouldn’t be surprised by that,” Steve Stites, chief medical officer at KU Health System, said during an update Tuesday. “We’ve watched the virus march across Western Kansas on heat maps. We know it’s been heading this direction. I think we’re all concerned.”

Stites and other doctors have said in the past they expected a jump in cases after watching what happened in states to the west that decided to drop mask mandates without having high numbers of people vaccinated.

Hospitals across the metro are also seeing a similar increase in COVID-19 patients. According to a COVID-19 dashboard maintained by the Mid-America Regional Council, there were 75 people hospitalized on Nov. 21, across a total of seven metro counties. Now MARC reports 106 people hospitalized as of Nov. 29.

Health experts warn the higher number may not be telling an accurate story at this point. They expect even higher numbers with people gathering in larger-than-normal groups for Thanksgiving.

“The challenge has been that the lack of reporting over the holidays makes it especially difficult to know what the numbers are. The hospitalizations, those are the real numbers. That jumped to 27, I think herald’s perhaps yet another wave that we have to be thinking about,” Stites said.

They say none of the cases reported so far are the new COVID variant, omicron.