Spike in COVID-19 cases creeps from southern Missouri toward Kansas City metro

Tracking Coronavirus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The number of COVID-19 cases is increasing and spreading across Missouri. Leaders in Kansas City are concerned that the higher number of cases is creeping toward the metro. ]

Missouri’s Department of Health and Human Services said the state has 6,804 confirmed cases of COVID-19 over the past week. That is closing in on 1,000 new cases every day. The state said the number of positive cases increased by more than 29% over the past week.

As of July 11, Missouri’s DHHS said there were 1,284 people hospitalized across the state because of COVID-19. Of those patients, 390 people were in the ICU and 200 were on ventilators.

Until now, the majority of the focus has been on the outbreak in Springfield and Greene County. But the number of COVID-19 cases isn’t staying there. The virus is spreading.

That includes Joplin, where the president of Mercy Health said that the community has surpassed its highest number of people hospitalized with COVID-19.

Here in Kansas City, doctors at University of Kansas Health System point to maps like a COVID-19 risk map developed by Harvard. It shows risk levels for counties across the country.

Springfield and the surrounding area are in the red risk level. The majority of the Kansas City metro now sits in the orange risk category. Only Platte, Clay and Douglas County, Kansas, are in the lower yellow risk category.

“If you look at the risk areas around COVID,” Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at KU Health System, said. “I think that what you’re watching is that the highest risk areas are encroaching Kansas City. I think that’s because of a lack of vaccination in the area. That’s allowing the Delta virus to spread, and that continues to be infectious, even in areas where we see higher vaccination rate, like Jackson County or Johnson County.”

After that happens, Stites said cases start crowding hospitals, creating an even larger problem.

“We’re all a little bit nervous,” Stites said. “We don’t want to see what’s happening in Springfield happen in Kansas City.”

Health experts in the Kansas City metro say the only way to keep the number of COVID-19 cases down, and people out of hospitals is for people to get vaccinated against the virus.

“Vaccination is absolutely safe. It is absolutely effective. If you are truly immunocompromised you probably still need to be wearing your masks in public and social distancing, because the Delta variant is very bad,” Stites said. “We just need to recognize we need to take care of people as best we can.”

Health departments, retail pharmacies, and hospitals offer free vaccines almost every day of the week.

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