KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After months of declining COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the Kansas City region, the B.1.617.2 variant — better known as the “delta variant” — is surging across the area.
According to the Mid-America Regional Council’s Kansas City COVID-19 data hub, the number of rolling seven-day average of new cases has more than doubled in the last month, while hospitalizations have increased more than 48% in the last two weeks.
The inpatient hospital count for the Kansas City region is the highest since Feb. 2, which will continue to become more of a problem if COVID-19 hospitalizations keep climbing.
Meanwhile, testing remains less than half of the recommended level in the Kansas City area and the vaccination rate has slowed with fewer than half of residents 18 to 64 years old and only one in five children ages 12 to 17 vaccinated.
There are multiple delta variants that originated late last year in India, but the variant of concern is B.1.617.2, a mutation first detected last December and commonly referred to as “the delta variant," is causing the most concern among health officials.
It was initially detected in the U.S. in March 2021 and arrived in Missouri in May 2021, according to The Sewershed Surveillance Project.
The highly transmissible strain became prevalent in sewershed samples taken the week of May 10 in the Branson area.
Within a week, the delta variant was detected in two more rural Missouri water treatment plants — Licking in south-central Missouri and Brookfield in north-central Missouri.
It continued to spread in southern Missouri and central Missouri through late May, arriving in suburban Kansas City in samples taken the week of May 31, when it was detected in Blue Springs, Independence and Liberty.
By June 14, the delta variant was detected in sewershed samples at all 30 water treatments plants sampled that week in Missouri, including throughout the greater Kansas City region.
The viral load at most Kansas City-area wastewater treatment plants — including the Birmingham, Blue River, Fishing River, Independence Rock Creek, Liberty, Platte City, Rocky Branch, Todd Creek, and Westside plants — more than doubled, in some cases significantly so, from June 27 to July 11.
The viral load at the Little Blue Valley Sewer District Wastewater Treatment Plant also has skyrocketed since June 27.
While the most recent sampling shows viral-load levels well below those seen at the pandemic’s regional peak in November and December 2020, the July 11 report shows levels paisley on the rise and already surpassing the viral load from mid-March.