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COVID-19 case surge 'absolutely soul crushing' for frontline workers, KCFD division chief says

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Posted at 11:21 PM, Aug 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-07 01:06:02-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — To tackle the latest surge in COVID-19 cases, Kansas City-area frontline health care workers are putting in hours around the clock.

Hayat Abdullahi, senior director of Community Health Strategies and Innovations at Truman Medical Centers University Health, said the more-infectious delta variant is causing more people to show up at vaccination clinics.

"We are seeing people come in pretty scared now – actually more than before – trying to come in and get the vaccine," Abdullahi said.

While the past couple months saw a decline in people seeking out the vaccine, concerns over the delta variant are driving people to get the shot.

"We thought that when we would get busy again it would be because we had a third vaccine that we needed to do a booster shot, not because we had an increase in COVID cases," said Raquel Garcia, community health education nurse for the Community Health Strategies and Innovation Team.

People like Ruben Michael Orozco got his first shot on Friday at Truman Medical Centers University Health clinic at the Guadalupe Center in Kansas City, Missouri. He said he wanted to be vaccinated after losing several people close to him due to the virus "put the fear in me."

"I want to go back to the normal life," Orozco said.

But after battling COVID-19 for more than 18 months, the rise in the delta variant has strained those who deal with the virus head-on.

"We are kind of tired because of the surge of the number, you know, seeing people suffer, seeing people dying," Abdullahi said.

The Kansas City, Missouri, Fire Department also has seen an increase in calls for ambulance service.

"Just sort of a slow trickle, kind of a slow burn that has accelerated, and now it is a daily occurrence for us, particularly for this delta variant," said Nathan Hopper, KCFD's emergency medical service assistant division chief.

And the uptick is frustrating for Hopper, who said these cases are preventable.

"It is absolutely soul crushing," Hopper said. "We suffered with this. We had our own employees die of this."

KCFD's EMT Billy Birmingham, Communications Specialist Scott Davidson and Capt. Robert "Bobby" Rocha are among those who have died after contracting COVID-19.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced on Friday that ambulance strike teams consisting of 30 ambulances and 60 trained personnel will be sent around the state, including the Kansas City area to assist frontline workers.

"Knowing that there are these ambulance crews coming here, specialty care ambulances, whatever they may be, it is always appreciated," Hopper said. "It's very helpful, and it's something that all of the people in this region can take advantage of."

The strike teams will "include 20 advanced life-support ambulances, five basic life-support ambulances, five specialty care ambulances, and required medical and support personnel," according to a news release. They are expected to begin operating as soon as Saturday and will be available through Sept. 5.