KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Hospital leaders in the Kansas City metro are concerned about Missouri's rising number of COVID-19 cases.
The state leads the nation with the highest rate of new COVID-19 infections.
One person in every 1,349 people in the state was diagnosed with COVID-19 from June 13 to Sunday, new data show.
The north-central and southwest part of the state are driving the surge, said Lisa Cox, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
Dr. Mark Steele, chief clinical officer at Truman Medical Centers/University Health, said vaccinations are key to preventing the outbreaks.
"There’s no question that where we are seeing outbreaks is in areas where there are lower vaccination rates," Steele said. "It’s really the unvaccinated population that is at risk for developing COVID."
While the outbreaks do bring some concern, Steele said he feels good about the metro's vaccination numbers.
"The good thing here locally, in the urban areas, as we know, the vaccination rates are higher than the rural areas," Steele said. "So we hopefully have an additional layer of protection."
Among the state's outbreaks in the northwest and southwest regions, the Delta variant is becoming more dominant. Health officials said it's been proven to be even more contagious and possibly even more deadly than others.
Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer for the University of Kansas Health System, said officials will continue to point to vaccines as the ultimate protection.
"Remember the other reason for vaccination is that it helps protect others because you tend not to spread the disease as much," Stites said, "and by having a vaccine the virus is less likely to reproduce a lot inside of us, and therefore create variants."
Steele said TMC/UH is launching new initiatives to get those vaccinated who aren't yet. He said he worries that outbreaks will only continue if the state doesn't increase its vaccination rate.
"We know that these vaccines are so highly efficacious and very, very safe," he said. "So there really is just no good reason not for people to get the vaccine to protect themselves, protect their families, protect their loved ones."