KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The pandemic may seem like its coming to a close, but cases in Missouri are on the rise.
Experts say it has a lot to do with vaccination rates falling off, and the spread of variants causing concern.
According to a New York Times analysis, Missouri has the highest rate of new COVID-19 cases, but what about the Kansas City metro?
Although the state is in a slow climb of cases, they’re mostly in rural towns and cities in the state. The closest city to the metro with rising cases is Livingston, Missouri, which is near Chillicothe.
Professionals say a booster shot may be in our future, but the most important thing you can do is get vaccinated.
“We know that vaccination provides protective immunity against even these variants, and that is because of antibodies, even though some of the antibody activity is reduced. It still does provide protection,” said Dr. Dana Hawkinson with the University of Kansas Health System.
Hawkinson said the strains are causing concern, and if you’re vaccinated, your antibodies have a higher chance of keeping you safe.
Charles Cohlima, the Jackson County Health Department’s communicable disease prevention and public health preparedness division manager, said they’ve seen a drop off in residents getting the vaccine.
“Talk with your doctor, get the vaccine, see if it’s, you know, see everything that you need to know. And ask your public health agency if you have any questions. Like we are still here, we are still here to answer any questions you have,” Cohlima said.
“It looks like the Delta variant is becoming more and more prevalent, possibly even more working its way towards being more prevalent than the alpha or the UK variant,” Hawkinson said.
Hawkinson said once experts know more about the variants a third shot may help those already vaccinated.
“I think just doing that third dose is going to be enough. I don’t suspect you’ll have to restart to do that two dose series again, or have two doses,” Hawkinson said.
Cohlima said their COVID rates aren’t rising, but he sees rural counties with lower vaccination rates struggling.
“Any disease is now just one flight away. So especially as you see more people traveling, you see more people going from place to place, there is that risk just from traveling that it could be in one corner of the world one day and then next door the next day,” Cohlima said.
On the other side of the state line, they’re seeing a stalemate, too. Wyandotte County is trying something different to get their vaccine rates on the rise.
Starting Tuesday, they’re offering Wyandotte residents a chance at various incentives like season passes to Worlds of Fun or Oceans of Fun, a dinner for four and game tickets at Dave & Busters, or a $500 Visa gift card.
Jackson County isn’t offering the same at this time, but Cohlima said he hopes people will take up their offer.
“I think it’s really important to meet people where they are to get people vaccinated. So it’s to try to make sure that you can account for anyone, anyone who could have could have questions about it,” Cohlima said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the growing Delta variant of COVID-19 makes up 10% of all new cases of the virus. Hawkinson said the more people make the choice to get the vaccine the more the metro will be protected from it.
“The more people that are vaccinated, those are protected. But there is a large group that is still unvaccinated, and they are going to continue to be at risk of disease, of severe disease, of getting long, COVID and all of those problems that come with it,” Hawkinson said.
He said a lot of the new cases they are seeing are younger people. He said much of the older population already got their shots, and the hospitalizations they are seeing now are an increasing number of younger adults.