KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The University of Kansas Health System has more COVID-19 patients right now than at any point during the pandemic.

KU Health System leaders said their emergency rooms are overwhelmed, and their hospital is full. But the problems aren’t just isolated there.

“This morning we’re holding 20 patients in our emergency department, waiting for inpatient hospital beds,” said Gail Schuetz with KU Health System. “What would that normally look like? We would want that to normally be zero.”

Because of that, Kansas City area experts warn that just because you might need care, don’t assume you’ll get it because of the predicament hospitals are in right now.

“Don’t assume that there will be a bed for you,” said Dr. Amber Schmidtke with the University of Saint Mary. “And that’s true if you have COVID. That’s true if you have a heart attack or a stroke or a car accident. We are really, really pressed right now for space and staffing.”

The issue at the center of it all is a virus that continues to cripple the health care system – bringing in a surge of patients while also sidelining hundreds of frontline workers.

“Majority of people coming into the hospital are coming to be seen for COVID as well,” said Dr. Dana Hawkinson with KU Health System. “That just continues to add stress onto the system as a whole.”

KU Hospital has been averaging more than one death due to COVID-19 a day since the start of 2022. But the problem stretches further than the immediate Kansas City metro, impacting the entire region.

“This surge is higher than anything that we’ve seen previously. So as bad as we thought last winter was, this one is worse,” Schmidtke said. “The reality is that hospitals are really struggling with what we’re seeing right now. We have ICUs that are full. We have people that are having to delay getting care.”

Their advice is it’s never to late to do the right thing by masking, social distancing and getting a COVID-19 vaccine or booster.