City of Independence, Missouri

Region’s public health directors: ‘It’s critical we bend the curve to keep hospital space available’

The region’s public health directors are asking Kansas City metro residents to help ease the mounting pressure on area hospitals by taking steps to slow the spread of COVID-19.

This morning, chief medical officers for metro hospitals voiced concerns about their ability to serve patients, no matter their vaccination status, due to an increase in COVID-19 admissions. In their briefing, they stressed that hospitals are already full, and new cases of COVID-19 may keep people who are sick or have time-sensitive diagnoses from getting care.

“This is another challenging situation for our hospitals. We must do whatever we can to keep ourselves, our families and communities healthy,” said Andrew Warlen, MPH, director of the Platte County Health Department. “Thankfully, we know what stops the spread of COVID-19: getting vaccinated and getting your booster, wearing a mask, staying away from crowds, washing hands frequently and staying home if sick. These are steps we can all take to help ensure hospital beds are available to those who need them.”

Experts say the delta variant is fueling the current surge in cases; however, omicron has been detected in both Missouri and Kansas, and early research suggests that it spreads faster than previous variants. COVID-19 vaccination is the best way to prevent severe cases of COVID-19, including against the variants seen to date. While COVID-19 vaccines help prevent illness, some breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are expected. When these breakthrough cases happen, the vaccines are highly effective at preventing the worst outcomes of COVID-19, including severe illness, hospitalization and death.

Those eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine include anyone age 5 and older. Boosters are approved for persons age 16 and older six months after the last dose of their primary series of either Pfizer or Moderna. For those age 18 and older who received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it is recommended to receive a booster dose of a mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) at least two months after the first dose.

“It’s critical we bend the curve to keep hospital space available,” said Dr. Sanmi Areola, director of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment. “We are all tired of this pandemic, but with the upcoming holidays, increases in cases and too few vaccinations in our community, now is the time to take steps to protect one another.”

“COVID-19 is real. Our crisis is real. The Kansas City metro area is in trouble. If you have COVID-19 and you can’t get care or if you don’t have COVID-19 and you can’t get care – those are both bad outcomes,” said Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer of The University of Kansas Health System, during the hospital briefing.

The public health directors also encourage metro residents to get the flu shot to further protect themselves and their families.

If you are sick or caring for someone sick, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website to learn how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

To find a COVID-19 vaccine or testing location near you, visit PrepareMetroKC.org.