‘Fighting two pandemics’: the new reality of COVID-19 and its variants

Tracking Coronavirus

FILE – In this Jan. 26, 2021, file photo, registered nurse Diane Miller pulls on gloves and other protective equipment as she prepares to enter patient rooms in the COVID acute care unit at UW Medical Center-Montlake in Seattle. The deadliest month of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. drew to a close with certain signs of progress: COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are trending downward, while vaccinations are picking up speed. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Health experts said we’re in a scary place as COVID-19’s delta variant surges and fills hospitals across Kansas and Missouri.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas issued a public health emergency in response to surging cases, mandating that everyone wear masks indoors starting Aug. 2, as the city tries to gain the upper hand. The mayor of North Kansas City said he also planned to enact a mask mandate.

Jackson County, Missouri made COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for employees, unless they want to get weekly COVID-19 tests. So have some hospitals, such as Kansas City’s Truman Medical Center.

As leaders push to take steps to convince the unvaccinated to join the vaccinated, doctors said they are fighting two pandemics.

“What we’re seeing … is really now two pandemics. It’s the pandemic of the vaccinated, but even greater is that pandemic of the unvaccinated and the sheer numbers,” Dr. Dana Hawkinson, head of infectious disease at KU Health System, said during a COVID-19 update Thursday morning.

It’s the sheer numbers of patients suffering from the Delta variant that either overwhelm, or threaten to overwhelm hospitals. The University of Kansas Health System said Thursday that only a handful of its COVID-19 patients were vaccinated, and they have underlying health issues. The vast majority of people hospitalized are not vaccinated.

Doctors said that must change in order for the metro to beat the variant.

“Vaccination really can help prevent that virus mutation inside your body. And that’s what keeps getting us into trouble,” Dr. Steve Stites, Chief Medical Officer of the University of Kansas Health System, said. “If we had been highly vaccinated, that Delta variant would never have had the opportunity to take hold as it has, especially here in the Midwest and other areas where there’s a lot of unvaccinated.”

Vaccines are widely available across the Kansas City metro. You can text a zip code to GETVAX (438829) to get information about the closest place to get a vaccination. The option is also available in Spanish by texting a zip code to VACUNA (822862).

In seconds, you’ll have several locations to get a vaccine, which vaccine is available, and information about making an appointment, or if you can simply walk-in for a shot.

You can also respond if you need a ride or are looking for free childcare in order to get vaccinated.

There is also a free phone number to call for any additional questions.

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