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Kansas City hospitals have most COVID-19 patients since fall 2020: KU health official

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Hospitals in Kansas City are now treating the most COVID-19 patients at one point in time since fall of last year as the delta variant continues to tear through the region, an area health expert said Friday.

Approximately 300 COVID-19 patients were being treated in metro hospitals as of Thursday, hitting a new high-water mark as local leaders continue to express worry about the virus’ spread through areas with lower-than-desired vaccination rates.

That statistic was cited Friday morning in a university letter from Dr. Robert D. Simari, executive vice chancellor of the University of Kansas Medical Center.

“All the hospitals, including the health system, are turning away transfer patients because their resources are overburdened,” Simari said. “It is not just COVID-19 patients stressing the health-care system; there are many sick patients with other illnesses, which have increased since restrictions were lifted.”

Because of vaccine rates well under the necessary level to achieve herd immunity, Simari added, the safest course of action is “assume everyone around us is unvaccinated” and possibly practice social distancing and wearing face coverings.

Other area health leaders have echoed those concerns as the number of hospitalizations is rising.

For example, Saint Luke’s Health System on Friday reported twice as many COVID patients hospitalized compared to one month ago, hospital officials said. Currently, there are 82 COVID patients hospitalized across the 16 entities within the hospital’s health system.

On Friday, the area encompassing Kansas City and Jackson, Clay and Platte counties in Missouri and Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas gained 529 new cases for a total of 156,548 to date. Over the past week, the metro added 2,608 new cases.

The seven-day rolling average for new cases rose from 340 to 373, according to data tracked by The Star. The average has not been this high since Feb. 4. One week ago, the average sat at 262 and two weeks ago, it was 155.

On July 16, 10 Kansas City-area hospitals and health officials issued a joint public health advisory recommending members of the public wear masks.

Unvaccinated individuals should wear a mask while visiting indoor public places, crowded outdoor settings, and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated, according to the advisory.

The Star’s Lisa Gutierrez contributed to this report.

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