KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Here we go again.
That’s the message from doctors and hospitals across the Kansas City region as COVID-19 cases begin to climb. Some areas are experiencing a jump in hospitalizations that doctors said hasn’t been seen in a year.
“We are really close to the maximum [number] and I don’t think we are at the peak yet. So I think this will be the highest we’ve ever seen with COVID,” Dr. Ragu Adiga, Chief Medical Officer at Liberty Hospital, said during an update provided by the University of Kansas Health System on Tuesday.
Leaders from a number of area hospitals said COVID-19 cases are spiking, and it’s happening even before the more-contagious omicron variant widely arrives in the area.
“What we are seeing is a rapid, the most rapid escalation since COVID started in the number of new cases coming in,” said Dr. Steve Stites, Chief Medical Officer at KU Health System. “So we know we watch the curves, how fast things escalate, and this is still the Delta variant. We’re seeing the most rapid escalation in the curve.”
According to a COVID-19 dashboard through the Mid-America Regional Council, there were 176 new hospitalizations across Kansas City on Friday, Dec. 3. That compares to 90 new hospitalizations on Nov. 26.
Doctors from the area hospitals said they are able to handle the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at this point, but aren’t sure how long that will last.
“So far we have not had to cancel any [elective surgeries] and the day-to-day thing. We continue to look at it; all options are on the table,” Adiga said. “We don’t want to delay anybody’s care. We know what happens when we delay the care, so we’re not taking it lightly.”
They also said they realize if COVID hospitalizations continue to increase, at some point they may not have a choice but to delay some treatment.
“Obviously we’re concerned. I mean, we’ve seen an uptick in terms of holding folks and I noticed this morning that they’re 10 in the area hospitals that are on high volume, which obviously suggests that they’re under some pressure,” said Dr. Mark Steele, Chief Medical Officer at University Health.
Most health experts agree that the only way to truly protect against the virus is to be fully vaccinated, plus have a booster. Doctors said they’re starting to see breakthrough cases from people who haven’t made time to get that added shot.
“I think a lot of the folks who had gotten fully vaccinated are hoping they didn’t have to get that booster, and the CDC — it’s only been a few weeks since the CDC said that’s good for everyone,” Stites said.
Another issue is the timing of the surge. Some people who gathered with people over Thanksgiving were exposed and have tested positive. Plus, it’s been several weeks since some mask mandates were lifted across the Kansas City metro.
“And I think that’s exactly what we’re seeing now. So, as a result, our numbers are rising. But even in the northern reaches of the metropolitan area, things have been going up even faster. So pretty nervous about that,” Stites said.
Doctors and health experts said it’s critical that everyone who is eligible get vaccinated as soon as possible and keep up with booster vaccinations when the time comes.
“Really important that you will get your shots and get your booster and maybe you may get to spend your Christmas with your own family not the hospital family, and that’s what we’re trying our best to do,” Adiga said.