Raymore residents should brace themselves for a bigger surge in COVID-19 cases, possibly the biggest wave yet.
Cases of COVID-19 are climbing quickly in the area. More than 280 tests came out positive for COVID-19 in the week ending Dec. 11. That is a nearly 50% increase from the previous week. There were an additional 100 probable cases, also closing in on a 50% increase.
Hospital space is filling up quickly across the entire Kansas City metro area. Consequently, chief medical officers in the Kansas City area are sounding the alarm.
On Dec. 17, the University of Kansas Health System hosted a news conference with nine area chief medical officers representing hospitals throughout the metro. The situation is the same across the board.
“We’re as bad as we’ve been throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer of The University of Kansas Health System.
As of press time, hospitalizations are at the same number they were last fall. At the current rate, the area is poised to have a worse situation than last winter. Raymore is no exception.
Omicron: The fourth wave
A quick glance at the Cass County’s Health Department’s COVID-19 data suggests the worse is yet to come.
Last year, a surge in COVID-19 cases in Raymore did not begin until right after the Fourth of July weekend. A second, bigger wave hit shortly after during the winter season. During the week ending Nov. 28, 2020, more than 130 cases were confirmed in Raymore, the most in one week to date.
This year is exhibiting the same pattern. The delta variant currently plaguing the area began its rise around July 4. That wave started to subside around October before climbing again, much like last year.
Still riding the delta wave, area chief medical officers are warning about a potential omicron wave. With this fall’s wave bigger than last year’s, hospitals are gearing up for a record-breaking surge. Although some cases of omicron have been detected in Missouri, Dr. Stites says the variant is just now making its way to our doorsteps.
“This is a tornado warning to our community,” Dr. Stites said.
Hospitals are running out of beds again. Chief medical officers are receiving calls from other states asking if they have room for a transfer. Most do not.
A lack of beds poses a risk for everyone. In addition to new COVID-19 cases, hospitals are unable to accommodate more common emergencies like heart attacks, strokes and vehicle crashes.
Vaccines playing largest role in new cases
According to at least nine chief medical officers in the metro area, most hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated.
With 100% of COVID-19 patients on ventilators unvaccinated, Dr. Stites called the disease “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” At least one COVID-19 patient on a ventilator is someone in their mid-20s.
In fact, cases among children are spiking as well. Dr. Jennifer Watts at Children’s Mercy Hospital said she is seeing an increase in the pediatric population. The same is true for veterans at the Kansas City VA Medical Center.
Health experts are giving out the same advice they have been shouting all year: Get the vaccine and wear a mask.
Although anyone can contract COVID-19, those who are vaccinated are likely to avoid intensive care, let alone death. Those already vaccinated will be better protected with a booster shot. The situation at nearby hospitals supports those claims.
Dr. Jennifer Schrimsher, an infectious disease specialist, encourages younger, healthy people to get vaccinated. For those people, Dr. Schrimsher explained, it is more about the vulnerable people around them.
Dr. Schrimsher also believes vaccinating children is a decision for the family to make. However, that decision should be made with factual information in front of them. Dr. Schrimsher points out that parents have trusted pediatricians with their children’s health in every other situation.
Dr. Lisa Hays, chief medical officer at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, echoed that sentiment to unvaccinated adults. Dr. Hays said that people go to hospitals seeking help from medical professionals for everything from minor headaches to life-threatening gunshot wounds.
“Just like you trust us when you’re sick, trust us to help prevent you from getting sick with COVID-19 too,” Dr. Hays said.
When it comes to masks Dr. Watts emphasized the need to have masks required in schools. Dr. Watts said that closing schools has a negative impact on students’ mental health. Requiring masks inside schools will prevent future closures. She also claims that most of the complaints about masks in schools are not coming from the students.
With cases rising and a contagious variant on the horizon, medical experts are now using a “scared straight” tactic to compel vaccinations and mask use. Dr. Raghu Adiga, chief medical officer at Liberty Hospital, said doctors and hospital staff are not elected officials. Rather, they are simply doing their job keeping citizens healthy and alive.
“We’re not the decisionmakers,” Dr. Adiga said. “We speak science.”
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