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COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases decline in Kansas City but doctors warn ‘don't get cocky’

A woman in a black coat carries a plastic bin filled with plastic bags. She is reaching into the driver's side of a car.  A line of cars sits behind her while another person in the background reaches into a car.
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
A free COVID testing event in Overland Park on Jan. 4 saw nearly 2,000 people show up for testing.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are trending downward across Kansas City after the omicron variant caused a spike in cases, hospitalizations and deaths in January. These metrics are encouraging but doctors remain cautious as case numbers are still high.

The Kansas City metro reported 1,298 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, which remains high according to health officials. But cases have receded substantially from their previous peak of 6,178 on Jan. 11, according to data from the Mid-America Regional Council.

And on Monday, the daily average number of hospitalizations was 212 across the metro, down nearly 14% compared to the daily average one week before.

While the numbers are encouraging, Dr. Steven Stites of the University of Kansas Health System was cautious with his optimism.

“Even when they’re down 30 or 40% they're still higher than at any other point during the pandemic, so don't get cocky,” Stites said Wednesday during the health system’s daily briefing.

Stites was joined by medical professionals from other major hospitals in the metro area as well as from Topeka and Wichita.

Ten of the eleven health facilities reported a decrease in hospitalizations following a peak in January. Advent Health Shawnee Mission reported a 33% decrease in hospitalizations since its peak in mid-January. And Liberty Hospital reported a 50% drop from its peak several weeks ago.

The situation is different in Topeka. Jackie Hyland, chief medical officer at the KU Health System’s St. Francis Campus, said the intensive care unit is over capacity and they are “not out of this yet.” Currently, Hyland said, 40 patients are hospitalized due to COVID-19 and seven patients have died in the last week.

Kevin Dishman, chief medical officer at Stormont Vail Health in Topeka, reported the hospital is currently at capacity and experiencing staffing shortages related to COVID infections. Dishman said infections in rural areas of Kansas with low vaccination rates are a cause for the peak in cases at Stormont Vail.

“We are still seeing an abundant number of transfers from the rural areas,” Dishman said.

Doctors continued to urge residents to get vaccinated and boosted, as it is the best method of preventing hospitalizations from the omicron or future variants. They also continued to encourage precautions such as avoiding large gatherings and wearing masks even if you are up to date on your vaccinations.

Jacob Martin is a news intern at KCUR. Follow him on Twitter @jacob_noah or email him at Jacobmartin@kcur.org.
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