COVID-19 cases nearly triple in Missouri; double in Kansas, Kansas City area in December

APTOPIX Virus Outbreak Missouri
Posted at 3:32 PM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-04 16:32:47-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The number of new COVID-19 cases in Missouri nearly tripled and cases in Kansas as well as the seven-county Kansas City region nearly doubled in December, a surge fueled by holiday gatherings and the arrival of the omicron variant.

State and local health departments in Missouri reported more than 92,000 new cases last December, a sharp rise from the 37,000 reported in November, according to the latest update of the KSHB 41 News COVID-19 Tracker.

It is the third-highest number of new cases for a single month since the start of the pandemic — trailing only November and December 2020, the peak of the virus’ rampage in the Show-Me State before vaccines became widely available.

Cases in Kansas shot up from just shy of 36,000 in November to nearly 64,500 last month, while cases in the Kansas City area — Johnson, Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties in Kansas along with Cass, Clay, Jackson and Platte counties in Missouri — just from fewer than 17,000 to more than 31,000 in December.

"We are at a critical juncture," Dr. Steven Stites, the chief medical officer for The University of Kansas Health System, said. "Today, I have a combination of fear, I'm maybe a touch angry and a whole lot of frustration. Normally, we try to paint a really optimistic view. ... Omicron and COVID is everywhere and, if you refuse to take precautions, it will find its way to you now more than any point in the pandemic."

The number of deaths reported in December also climbed month-over-month across the board — rising 55% to 642 deaths in Missouri, 34% to 165 deaths in the Kansas City region and 16% to 335 deaths in Kansas.

More than 14,000 people in Missouri, 7,000 in Kansas and 3,800 in the KC area have died from COVID-19 in the last 22 months.

This latest surge could get worse before it gets better.

"I would say to you is we are going to have one of the most difficult months throughout the entire pandemic," Stites said.

There were nearly 13,500 new confirmed cases in December alone reported in Johnson County, which has reported 99,019 cases and 1,015 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The Johnson County Department of Health of Environment reports the highest-ever incidence rate, 893 new cases per 100,000 people, and positivity rate, 22.3%, during the last seven days, according to information on its dashboard.

The incidence rate is lower (618 per 100,000), but the positivity rate (29.1%) is higher in Jackson County, according to its latest dashboard data.

Hospitalizations remain near record levels, according to the latest information from the Mid-America Regional Council.

Community spread continues largely unchecked with omicron joining the still-circulating delta variant, helping create a spike in breakthrough cases among the vaccinated population, and few remaining mask mandates in place. Both highly transmissible variants continue to fill hospitals with patients who are almost universally unvaccinated.

Even with cases surging in the county, the Shawnee Mission School Board decided to make masks optional for middle and high school students when school resumes after the holiday break.

Children’s Mercy Hospital, which has reported record numbers of infected and hospitalized kids, and The University of Kansas Health System reported staffing challenges associated with the latest surge.

RELATED | Newly vaccinated couple reflects on hospital stay that shifted their perspective

Jackson County has not been immune — including parts of the county in Kansas City and Independence, which have separate health departments.

There were nearly 9,000 cases and more than 50 deaths reported in Missouri’s second most populous county last month.

Medical experts continue to urge people to get vaccinated or receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster as the best protection against severe illness, hospitalization and possible death.

There have now been more than 300,000 confirmed cases in the Kansas City region since the start of the pandemic.

There have been more than 900,000 confirmed cases in Missouri and more than 537,000 in Kansas.