MISSION, Kan. — One of Kansas’ largest hospitals is straining to treat an influx of COVID-19 patients even as the surging virus sidelines hundreds of doctors and nurses.
At the University of Kansas Hospital, more than 500 employees out of a staff of more than 13,000 are sick or awaiting test results, said Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City, Kansas, during a media call Monday.
The illnesses come as the hospital is treating 108 COVID-19 patients, up from 40 on Dec. 1.
“We’ve had to scale back on some elective surgeries and clinics and things like that and all hospitals in our area are having to take similar measures because you’ve got to keep your staff safe. You may not have quite enough people to be able to do all the work,” he said.
He said vaccination would have prevented all but a handful of the COVID-19 patients from being hospitalized, freeing up beds for other patients.
“I think what we have to remember is that COVID-19, when you’re unvaccinated, just doesn’t affect the unvaccinated,” he said.
“It affects everyone because it takes the hospitalizations and it fills up the hospital so much and staff get so sick that it means we don’t have enough people here to take care of everybody, which means we have to scale things back. And that’s the level we’re all at.”
He also urged people to wear masks in public, even as leaders in nearby Johnson County prepared to decide Thursday whether to scrap their current school mask mandate for elementary school children or leave it in place through the spring semester.
“If you want to keep schools open and you want to keep businesses open, you’ve got to keep people healthy,” he said.
“You’re either not going to have enough teachers or enough staff or too many students out in this omicron wave to think it’s going to really have successful schools, in my opinion, or the business is going to be able to work if they don’t have enough employees.”
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Kansas has risen over the past two weeks from 1,674.14 new cases per day on Dec. 18 to 2,001.29 new cases per day on Saturday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
As cases rise, the Topeka Municipal Court is suspending the majority of its in-person dockets due to an increase in community spread of COVID-19 in Shawnee County. The suspension starts Monday and is expected to last through Jan. 14. The city announced the decision last month.