Masks come off, COVID-19 surge will move in, Kansas City doctors predict

Tracking Coronavirus

(NEXSTAR)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Roeland Park’s City Council is the latest city to drop its mask mandate following a vote Monday night.

Wyandotte County is now the only jurisdiction in the Kansas City metro left with a public mask mandate. It expires Friday morning, unless the Unified Government votes to extend the mandate during Thursday’s meeting.

Kansas City, Missouri still has a mask rule for people inside school buildings and on school buses, which is in effect through Dec. 2.

Doctors warn that by dropping mask mandates, the community, and the country, will see another surge over the winter.

“I think we are seeing it around the country. Colorado, Montana, the mountain west, and other areas, even Vermont,” Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer for KU Health System, said during an update Tuesday morning.

“When you start taking masks off, and you go indoors, people are going to get sick again and we’re going to see that increasing rise in COVID-19 numbers. And that’s exactly what we’re starting to see.”

Large family gatherings starting with Thanksgiving next week, which might include unvaccinated people, and the return of colder weather, which means more people will be inside together, also have health experts concerned.

Because of those changes, Stites said he expects to see cases increase again and pointed to data health experts are already beginning to receive.

“Coming out of Lawrence is some wastewater testing showing that the last two data points are the highest they have been of the entire pandemic. That should concern us, right? Because we know the wastewater testing historically has predicted the rise in case counts, that shouldn’t surprise us,” Stites said.

The real concern for Stites, and other health experts, is that while the last round of mask mandates helped COVID-19 cases drop, they didn’t decline as dramatically as they did last spring when the first mask mandates were in place.

“Now we’re seeing the dip went down to the 14-15 range and is starting to accelerate up. I think unfortunately we’re going to still start to see that rise,” Stites said.

Stites and other health experts say the best news is that it’s easy to protect yourself against the virus. Just by getting vaccinated, the odds of needing to be hospitalized if you contract the disease decline dramatically.

“There continues to be supportive data that this continues to be a pandemic of the unvaccinated as 90-plus percent of the people who are dying continue to be unvaccinated,” Dr. Dana Hawkinson, Infectious Disease Specialist at the University of Kansas Health System, said.

COVID-19 vaccines are available for people age 5 and older. You can get a vaccine at pharmacies, health departments, clinics, and doctors offices. Many accept walk-ins.

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