Local health leaders sound the alarm as Kansas sets national COVID-19 case record

Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 3:42 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Local health leaders have sounded the alarm as Kansas sets the national COVID-19 case record with the highest amounts of active cases.

During a community conference call with 17 Chief Medical Officers on Wednesday, Jan. 26, doctors in the University of Kansas Health System said Kansas has the highest COVID-19 case count in the nation. Numbers have doubled in the past three weeks and hospitals all over the state are still being slammed by the surge.

Stormont Vail Health Chief Medical Officer Kevin Dishman was on the call as his hospital provided its 100,000th COVID-19 vaccine that morning. While a few CMO’s reported a plateau or decline in patient volumes on the call, Dr. Dishman and others noted the demand has not slowed.

“We thought we were in a plateau, but we saw an increase overnight to 74 to 75 (COVID-19) patients,” said Dishman. “One of the reasons is we have had staff that have been shifting to alternate roles. Our advanced practice registered nurses and our physician assistants have gone to bedside. One of the reasons we did that was to try to accommodate more transfers from the rural area. We were able to get our accepted transfers up to about 60 percent yesterday…We are trying to provide additional beds to our rural colleagues.”

According to the health network, a number of team members and physicians have taken work assignments outside their usual roles, such as COVID-19 testing, respiratory clinics, enhanced primary care, urgent care and acute care.

“There’s a monumental effort going on and we will continue that effort,” Dishman said.

The health network reported 226 team members and 16 providers were all out on contact leave for COVID-19.

Stormont Vail Health said a subvariant of Omicron, known as BA.2, or “stealth Omicron,” has made headlines for appearing to spread easier than the original variant.

Stealth Omicron has also been known to have genetic traits that make it more difficult to detect as an Omicron variant and has been reported in 26 states so far.

Dishman will join additional community and media conferences hosted by KU Health at 8 a.m. on the next two Wednesdays, Feb. 2 and 9, which will be available HERE.

As of Jan. 26, Stormont Vail Health said it had 74 COVID-positive inpatients, 90% of which are unvaccinated. There are also 112 positive patients in the outpatient Enhanced Primary Care program.

Stormont Vail said since Tuesday, staff have reported one COVID-19 related death and 16 discharges.

As of Wednesday, Stormont Vail also reported 42.4% of those tested for the virus at its facilities in the past seven days tested positive.

Dr. Jackie Hyland, Chief Medical officer of the University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus was also on the call. On Wednesday, her hospital reported 33 COVID-positive inpatients, 75% of which were unvaccinated.

The St. Francis Critical Care Unit was at on Wednesday at 95% and the Medical/Surgical Unit came in at 91% as 32 associates were in isolation.

The KU Health Topeka location said it was able to accept one direct admission.

St. Francis said it has also received a new shipment of KN95 masks and as part of its continued efforts to kee the community safe, will make them available for all employees. It said these masks cannot be used to replace fit-tested N95 masks in areas and situations which require one.

According to St. Francis KN95 masks are tighter fitting than surgical masks, which helps improve the effectiveness of the mask and provides additional protection. These masks should also be disposed of after each use.

Lastly, on the call was Douglas Co. deputy public health officer and infectious diseases physician at LMH Health, Dr. Jennifer Schrimsher. On Wednesday, her county reported a total of 6,125 active cases of the virus, with 586 reported in the last day.

The county also reported an average 14-day average daily case count of 305.71 and an average positivity rate of 22.5%.

Currently, there are 27 hospitalized COVID patients at LMH in Lawrence with 538 being hospitalized since March 2020. Cumulatively, Douglas Co. has reported 22,638 cases of the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.

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