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As Thanksgiving looms, Kansas City's COVID cases and hospitalizations are rising fast

Missouri's high infection rates has the White House recommending universities test students for coronavirus before Thanksgiving break.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The Kansas City metro area is averaging 365 new COVID cases per day, and the average may be quickly increasing.

Though holiday case numbers so far remain well below those from 2020, the COVID trendlines appear similar.

For the second year, Kansas City area residents are entering another Thanksgiving holiday with COVID-19 cases at a steady climb.

The metro area is averaging 365 new cases per day, according to the Mid America Regional Council. And with more than 600 cases reported on Tuesday morning, the average may be quickly increasing.

Cases having been trending up for a month, and in the last week, hospitalizations have picked up too, now averaging 92 per day.

University of Kansas Health System infectious disease specialist Dr. Dana Hawkinson said on Tuesday morning that the impact of COVID during the winter holidays would depend on transmissions that occur during Thanksgiving gatherings.

“I think it’s gonna be waiting these next two or three weeks to see how the increase in the seven-day rolling average of cases translate into hospitalizations,” Hawkinson said. “Because that is more of what we are concerned with.”

Missouri led the nation in new COVID cases during the middle of summer, but since then, statewide case rates have remained relatively low compared with other parts of the country.

However, as cooler temperatures have kept residents indoors, new cases have climbed again — not just in regions with low vaccination rates, which are most often rural, but also in cities.

New cases in Missouri have increased by 26% in the last two weeks, according to analysis by the New York Times, while new Kansas cases have increased by 37%.

Hospitalizations, which can trail new cases by a few weeks, have climbed to an average of 1,102 per day in Missouri, an increase of 11% in the last two weeks. Kansas hospitalizations now average 488 per day, a 14% increase.

Despite those increases, the average number of new COVID cases in the Kansas City area is still a third of what was reported the same time last year. Hospitalizations are at about half their 2020 levels.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says that vaccinated families should feel safe celebrating Thanksgiving together indoors without masks.

Though a welcome recommendation for many families, others who have younger children may need to continue to take steps to mitigate spread of the virus.

Children aged 5 to 12 who have begun but not completed their vaccinations are not yet fully protected until 14 days after the second dose, Hawkinson explained.

“While you will have some immunity, as someone who’s gotten one dose as a child, we know that you can still get it," he said. "You can still transmit it, and it’s really going to be down to that individual’s bubble, and how comfortable do you feel in that group?”

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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