Kansas COVID-19 case count, hospitalizations slow as weather warms

TOPEKA — For the first time since the pandemic began, some Kansas hospitals are seeing few to no COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, as the statewide case count appears to be declining.

Statewide case counts continue to decline since the peak of omicron variant cases in mid-January, easing the burden on many overwhelmed hospitals. For example, Ascension Via Christi in Manhattan reported earlier this month they had no more COVID-19 patients in their intensive care unit for the first time since 2020.

In Topeka, Stormont Vail reported nine total hospitalized patients with COVID-19. The University of Kansas health system still has 75 COVID-19 patients, but only 1 in intensive care because of the disease.

Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control for KU Health, said while the status quo is to remain, Kansas is moving in the right direction as the weather warms.

“We’re building good individual immunity, and hopefully community or population immunity as well,” Hawkinson said. “But we also know that the virus continues to circulate. Overall, cases have gone down, hospitalizations have gone down, and so have deaths. So those are all good things, but we may be in a lull right now.

According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, as of March 17, 29% of critical care beds were available at reporting hospitals in Kansas. The reduction in patient traffic comes as the number of daily cases has dropped into and at times below hundreds statewide, as opposed to the peak of the omicron surge where the number of new patients was in the thousands each day.

KDHE reports indicate 115 new cases of COVID-19, 4 new deaths and 45 new hospitalizations between Friday and Monday. This brings the total since March 2020 to 769, 333 cases, 8,150 deaths and 19,894 hospitalizations.

Vaccination rates also continue to climb slowly across the state. Currently, 73.9% of Kansans have received at least one dose and 60.7% are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In adults, the complete vaccination rate is 71.5%.

Hawkinson again encouraged Kansans to pursue full vaccination. He said that although further research and advice is still needed, recent reports indicating that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine remained durable and effective during the delta variant surge is an encouraging sign for those who received the vaccine.

“It adds to this story that we know is true, that these vaccines continue to protect against hospitalizations, serious illness and death,” Hawkinson said.

With the BA.2 variant of COVID-19 surging in foreign countries, Hawkinson said now is the time for people to make sure they are well prepared. The so-called “stealth omicron” variant now accounts for 75% of coronavirus cases worldwide but only 23% of cases in the United States, according to the CDC.

Karin Porter-Williamson, director of palliative care at KU Health System, said her division is focused on helping families and patients cope with the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of COVID-19. She said the number of cases that rose last year after a calm summer when restrictions were dropped was a mental health blow to many people.

With similar conditions this year, she is preparing her staff just in case.

“Right now we’re, we’re in another lull that hopefully will be long-lasting,” Porter-Williamson said. “We worked to build resilience skills, just to keep coming to work and doing our best. We need to be able to adapt and do the job that comes our way as best we can. »

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