Tuesday marks highest count in new hospitalizations in KC area

January 2022

In a virtual meeting this week, Kansas City area hospitals said they would be making further moves to accommodate a jump in patient admissions.

Hospitals in the Kansas City region, facing the largest outbreak of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began two years ago, announced today that they would begin further restrictions on elective surgeries and make other moves to accommodate a major influx of patient admissions for treatment of COVID-19.

The daily video conference hosted by the University of Kansas Health System brought together medical officers from HCA Health Midwest, AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, Liberty Hospital, Ascension Via Christi Health and the regional administrator for the federal Department of Health and Human Services to address not just the strain on provider services, but now on equipment and therapies needed to treat patients. Among the staffing challenges, hospitals have seen hundreds of employees sidelined by the virus in recent days, and emergency rooms are running at capacity, sometimes with hours-long waits. Intensive-care beds are becoming scarce, and even tools like ventilators and treatments like monoclonal antibodies are in short supply.

This week, the region’s 27 reporting hospitals set records for numbers of patients admitted for treatment, with 1,153 on Monday. With one hospital remaining to report Tuesday’s numbers, the caseloads were still running near that mark, at 1,110. That’s well above the 919 high-water mark set Dec. 12, 2020, as the original wave of infections peaked for that year. The latest wave brought the percentage of beds in use by COVID-19 patients to 26.73—again, a pandemic-era high. Health officials generally recognized that a 10 percent increase in patient load is the first level of stress on a system’s ability to provide services, 15 percent represents a serious strain, and 20 percent is the threshold for crisis-level management.

Area-wide, only 90 ICU beds remained available, about 15 percent of the region’s 785 beds, according to the Mid-America Regional Council. The rest were divided between 232 COVID-19 cases (29.55 percent) and 300 other cases (38.22 percent

On Tuesday, Kansas reached an all-time pandemic-era high, with 101,750 active cases. Before the current surge, the previous high for active cases was just over 90,000 on Jan. 3, 2021. The state surpassed that total on Saturday and has seen it increase each day since. Missouri, with slightly more than 264,000 active cases, is well below the Jan. 30, 2021, peak of just over 327,000. With a rolling seven-day average of just three deaths, Missouri is faring considerably with fatalities than Kansas, where the average is triple that, at nine.

Those figures show that while the sheer numbers of cases have put pressure on hospitals running at higher capacities, the lethality of this latest outbreak is considerably less than previous waves. Health officials attribute that to two factors: For one, Omicron is producing milder cases overall. And health-care executives say that, even though the vaccinations haven’t stopped transmission, they have paid off with reduced severity and sharply lower death rates in those who contract COVID-19. Physicians continue to stress the importance of vaccination, as well as traditional tactics for slowing transmission, including use of face masks, frequent hand-washing and social distancing.