KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the first time in months, every state in the U.S. reported either being stable or a drop in new COVID-19 cases. While it’s progress, health experts said rates are still higher now than any other time in the pandemic.
In Kansas City, the number of infections has also dropped considerably, according to doctors, but hospitals remain full.
“We are still seeing that effect of those great number of hospitalizations that we’ve been dealing with for the past several weeks,” Dr. Dana Hawkinson, at the University of Kansas Health System, said during an update.
Another grim reality is that doctors and nurses continue to lose patients to the virus.
“Unfortunately, we have also continued to have deaths and over the weekend we had eight deaths, three on Friday, two on Saturday, and then three in the last 24 hours,” Hawkinson said.
The health system also warned that its emergency department is one of the hardest hit right now, and it’s not unusual to see dozens of people waiting for care.
“It’s been incredibly busy our team has been through kind of a gauntlet the last few years,” said Dr. Ken Marshall of University of Kansas Health.
“You have a constant stream of patients that have a variety of problems COVID that adds just an extra layer of complexity from a mental point of view, and also bringing an extra load of patients on top of the patient load we’re already dealing with,” Marshall said.
The job is already complicated and stressful, and both doctors and nurses said they are feeling overwhelmed and burned out two years into the pandemic.
“We have very critical patients and very complex patients and so you add COVID to it just make things a little bit more complicated,” said Tiffany Clark, a University of Kansas Health System nurse. “Having to not allow visitors in the emergency room and so that family or friends, support is not there for that patient, so they rely on the staff to play that part. You know, trying to have space for patients. You know, you have to make sure that you follow isolation rules and that can increase the time it takes to get in and out of a room.”
The health system said it continues to see people in the emergency department for minor issues like getting a COVID-19 test. While doctors and nurses say they want patients to get care, they acknowledge patients with critical conditions are going to be treated first.
“I’m glad where we want you to our doors are always open to the community want them to come and seek our care but it definitely makes the waiting room more crowded. And when you come in for a COVID test you’re going to wait many hours because you know our higher acuity patients are going to go back first. It’s hard to explain that to them,” Clark said.
The hospital said it doesn’t want anyone to delay care, but asks people to seek the right type of care for their illness.
It said the emergency department is set up for anyone experiencing a life or limb emergency. For other, more minor emergencies, a doctor’s office or urgent care location may be more accessible.
COVID-19 tests are available at retail pharmacies, doctors offices and health departments. Patients will be tested sooner at one of these locations instead of waiting at the hospital.
Health experts said the most important message is that patients who need care should not delay it. If the emergency department is the only option go, but be prepared to wait.