An average of 90 people are currently being hospitalized for COVID-19 in the Kansas City area each day.
The Kansas City area is poised to become the next major U.S. hotspot for COVID-19, risking a dangerous and previously unseen stage of the virus for the region.
Chief medical officers of some of Kansas City’s leading hospitals and civic leaders warned during an online event Wednesday that residents urgently need to take action to shift the Kansas City area’s course.
“Either we get greater control of the virus or the virus will take greater control of our health, our economy, our daily activities,” said Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas Mayor David Alvey, who hosted the event.
University of Kansas Health Systems Chief Medical Officer Steven Stites and others on the call said area residents need to increase preventive measures, including the wearing of masks indoors and outdoors, maintaining social distancing and limiting group gatherings to no more than 10 people.
An average of 90 people are currently being admitted to hospitals for COVID-19 each day in the metro area, and representatives of several hospitals said those patients were already straining their capacity.
Dr. Larry Botts, chief medical officer of AventHealth Shawnee Mission in Merriam, Kansas, described the last few six weeks as a “very emotional and stressful period” for hospital staff, who have treated a sustained high number of patients exceeding those during any other time of the pandemic.
“Our greatest source of anxiety is that we will experience a surge which overwhelms our system and will be unable to care for our patients,” Botts said.
Both Kansas and Missouri are currently regarded as “red zones,” defined by the White House Coronavirus Task Force as having at least 10% percent of COVID-19 tests coming back positive.
Kansas currently has a 16% positivity rate and Missouri has a 13.6% rate, according to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The Kansas City metro area is currently averaging 331 new cases each day and reported 22 deaths in the last seven days.
Missouri has reported record high daily numbers of hospitalizations and deaths in the last week. The Department of Health and Senior Services reported 1,004 hospitalizations on Thursday and 32 deaths on Saturday.
Kansas currently ranks sixth in the nation for new cases per person in the last seven days. Missouri ranks seventh, according to data from the New York Times.
Both states’ trends are running counter to national trends, which show declines in new case numbers since late July.
Wednesday’s online meeting was inspired by a recent visit to Kansas City by Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. She warned that Kansas City trend data and lax attitudes toward mitigation were similar to those seen in other parts of the country with significant case spikes.
The heightened spread of COVID-19 also threatens local schools and the economy, according to participants in Wednesday’s call.
“If we don’t exercise what we’ve heard today, we won’t be able to keep our schools open,” said Kenny Southwick, executive director of Cooperating School Districts of Greater Kansas City. “And we’ll find ourselves in the situation that we were in last spring.”
Joe Reardon, president and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, likewise warned that the continued spread of the virus could create even more hardship for businesses that have struggled since March.
“If you want our economy to continue to recover, then we all need to take personal responsibility,” Reardon said. “It really is on all of us.”