University of Kansas Health Care System sees drop in COVID-19 patients

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. (WIBW) -- The University of Kansas Health Care System has seen another drop in COVID-19 patients.

Currently 15 patients are being treated for the virus which is down by one patient since yesterday, Tuesday, May 19. While seven of those patients are in the ICU which is no change. There are currently half the number of inpatients and doctors say this reflects both discharges and new admissions for the virus.

Dr. Roy Jensen, M.D., says the dramatic impact the pandemic has had on cancer patients across the nation. He says that because many screenings have been delayed, there may be a significant increase in cancer deaths that had been previously dropping for the last 20 years.

He also says the strategy of repurposing existing drugs to fight the virus is a trend that was developed in cancer research in the last 15 years. Jensen addressed whether the coronavirus pandemic will have an effect on the cancer center’s quest designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center that was planned to be submitted sometime this year.

Dr. Jamie Wagner, D.O., descried the steps that the KU Cancer Center has taken to prioritize the safety of patients. Measures include increasing time between patients to allow for sanitization of rooms and equipment and physical distancing and masks for both staff and patients.

She says that the number of screening mammograms has dropped by 50%, consistent with Dr. Jensen’s statement, since the outbreak and hope to be back at full capacity in June.

Dr. Wagner explained that immunocompromised patients, like those undergoing chemotherapy, are especially susceptible to the virus and how they need more protections than most. She said it’s safe for a patient finished with radiation however, to go grocery shopping with the right precautions and doctor’s approval. She confirmed that the use of telehealth visits has greatly increased and is useful for some cancer patients.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, M.D., says there have been no cases of health system patient being infected by staff members and he explains the rate of infection for health care workers is less than half that it is for the community. So far, he says, four patents have been given Remdesivir, a drug that is supposed to help lessen the length of time a patient suffers the virus symptoms, but he confirmed that it is too soon to say that it is working. The criteria for administering it to patients is being finalized.

Dr. Steve Stites, M.D., says doctors are happy to see that the country has been reopening gradually for nine days without a surge in patients. However, the next 7 – 10 days will be critical. He says the same rules used in defensive driving apply moving forward, “always look ahead, be aware of your surroundings and be careful of others while making sure you are taking all precautions.” Consistent behavior like this will last until a vaccine is found, hopefully by the fall.