KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The number of COVID-19 patients at the University of Kansas Health System dropped from Wednesday to Thursday. Doctors said it’s too soon to tell if this is the start to a downward trend or just a blip.

But it comes as daily cases continue to drop in the Kansas City area, according to the Mid-America Regional Council’s COVID dashboard.

The number of people hospitalized due to COVID may be down at KU Health System, but one person also died. KU Health System’s Dr. Dana Hawkinson said they had 115 active COVID cases with 24 in the ICU and 19 on a ventilator.

The more unfortunate number: 18 deaths so far in January. That’s just at KU Health System. MARC data shows 75 deaths across the region over the last two weeks.

“We haven’t even reached really the middle of January,” Hawkinson said. “So a lot of deaths so far.”

Doctors aren’t only concerned with deaths, but also the risk of post-COVID symptoms.

Anil Gharmalkar is a long-hauler, a patient with lingering COVID-19 side effects. He had 50% of lung function loss.

“For us, that first three months was more of a fight stay alive,” Gharmalkar said, “and then the following year, year and a half was a fight to see what life was going to be afterwards.”

The father of nine survived COVID in 2020, but he now has a permanent tracheostomy tube to help him breath.

KU Health System’s Dr. Leslie Spikes said that’s not unusual for patients in the long-COVID clinic. She said their numbers have gone up. They see about 150 post-COVID patients a month.

“A lot of the long-hauler patients we see in our clinic are patients that maybe weren’t that sick initially, but they’re having persistent fatigue, shortness of breath, lots of things, months, months after infection,” Spikes said.

She said it’s unclear if the vaccine protects against long-COVID symptoms. More research needs to be done.

Stites also said for most people who’ve been vaccinated, boosted and the got the omicron variant, the symptoms are not as severe.