Doctors say several factors led to drop in KC-area COVID-19 cases, testing

Posted at 4:49 PM, Feb 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-19 19:19:14-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In the Kansas City metro, COVID-19 cases and testing numbers are dropping, and doctors say the decline could be due to a number of reasons.

“(The) seven-day rolling average of new cases across the metro has been dropping for the last several weeks, as well as hospitalization and deaths have been on the decline," said Dr. Mark Steele, executive chief clinical officer for Truman Medical Centers/University Health.

Doctors on both sides of the state line say recent winter weather likely had more people staying home, where they were less likely to be exposed to the virus.

“If the case numbers are down, less people are having those risky contacts to someone who is known to be COVID-19 positive, and so I think you’d see decline in testing from that perspective," said Dr. Sarah Boyd, an infectious diseases specialist with Saint Luke's Health System. "Additionally, if there are fewer cases, then people aren’t having symptoms as often, so you’re not going to see as many new cases that are requiring testing."

The Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department has the ability to test 150 people per day, but the last time one of the department's testing sites saw more than 100 people was on Jan. 11.

A spokesperson says for the health department told 41 Action News that in the month of February, the largest number of people a testing site saw was 54.

“I think it may be a combination of things. I think certainly, I get the sense that people are taking it more seriously and abiding by those infection control principals like masking and social distancing and avoiding gatherings," Steele said. "And I think the cold weather probably has maybe kept some folks at home that otherwise might have been out and about."

In Johnson County, Kansas, a spokesperson for the health department told 41 Action News they fear the vaccine rollout is preventing people from wanting to get tested.

However, when compared to late 2020, Johnson County has seen a drop in cases and the percent positivity among people tested.

“I think from my perspective, the things that we’ve been doing are the things to keep doing," Boyd said.

With vaccine distribution and safety precautions, doctors hope to reach a place of herd immunity. In order to do that, 70% to 85% of the U.S. population would have to be vaccinated or have built up immunity after testing positive for COVID-19.