COVID-19 delta variant puts Kansas City-area health officials on alert

Southwest Missouri sees case increase
COVID-19 vaccine
Posted at 5:29 PM, Jul 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-06 18:29:55-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — The COVID-19 delta variant is in the Kansas City metro, but it's not impacting local hospitals the same way it is in other parts of Missouri, according to local health department leaders.

"It is a concern that something like what happened in Springfield, could happen here," said Hannah Conner, an epidemiologist with the Wyandotte County Health Department, "but I think that because there is such a high percent of people who are the most high risk, like people who are 65 and up, that are vaccinated, I think that's going to be really helpful.

"We also live in a nice kind of buffering area because the metro is much more vaccinated than some of the rural parts of Missouri and Kansas, so we have Johnson County right next to us who has high vaccination rates."

But during a press briefing Tuesday, Ashley Casad, vice president of clinical services at Cox Health in Springfield, said Cox has had to transfer some patients to St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia. The hospital also is asking for more respiratory therapists due to the increase in patients.

"We are having about 18 patients a day show up that need to be admitted, and next week it looks like we'll have about 24 patients that need to be admitted," Casad said.

Also in Springfield, Mercy Hospital has seen an influx of COVID-19 patients. Health care workers there are caring for so many patients, the hospital had to expand to a second Intensive Care Unit. It also ran out of ventilators and had to get more from hospitals in St. Louis, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

"When we look at our census of 115 patients about 85 of them right now are on some type of mechanical ventilation support... and that's pretty scary," said Erik Frederick, chief administrative officer at Mercy Springfield.

Doctors said most of the patients are unvaccinated and from rural areas of Missouri.

In Kansas, a spokesperson said the state has specifically targeted rural areas from the beginning.

“Early on, the way in which Kansas decided to roll out its vaccine program was to send vaccine every week to every rural county," said Marci Nielsen, chief adviser of COVID-19 coordination for Gov. Laura Kelly's office.

Both Kansas and Missouri have roughly the same vaccination rates, and what remains true on both sides of the state line is that the majority of people who are testing positive for COVID-19 are those who are unvaccinated.

The push to increase vaccinations remains in both states – and nationwide – as the virus will continue to mutate.

“Most of the people who are getting sick, who are hospitalized, who are dying are not vaccinated," Conner said. "The people who are vaccinated are not the ones that are getting sick and dying for the most part."