Medical experts encourage vaccinations to maintain low caseload
by Noah Taborda, Kansas Reflector
Topeka — For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, some Kansas hospitals are seeing low to no COVID-19 patients in critical care units as case numbers statewide appear to be in a lull.
Case numbers across the state continue to decrease from the spike in 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 no longer had any COVID-19 patients in their intensive care unit for the first time since 2020.
In Topeka, Stormont Vail reported nine total COVID-19 inpatients. The University of Kansas Health System still has 75 COVID-19 patients, but only 1 in the ICU because of the disease.
Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control for KU Health, said if the status quo were to remain, Kansas is trending in a good direction as the weather gets warmer.
“We are building up good individual immunity, and I hope community or population immunity as well,” Hawkinson said. “But we also know that the virus is continuing to circulate. Overall cases have been going down, hospitalizations have been decreasing, 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, there are 29% of ICU beds available in reporting Kansas hospitals. The reduction in patient traffic comes as daily case numbers have dropped into and sometimes below the hundreds statewide, as opposed to the peak of the omicron surge where new patient counts were in the thousands every day.
Reporting from KDHE indicates 115 new COVID-19 cases, 4 new deaths and 45 new hospitalizations between Friday and Monday. That brings the total since March 2020 to 769, 333 cases, 8,150 deaths and 19,894 hospitalizations.
Vaccine rates also continue a slow climb statewide. 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. Among adults, the fully vaccinated rate is 71.5%.
Hawkinson once again encouraged Kansans to pursue full vaccination. He said while further research and guidance are still needed, recent reports indicating the Johnson & Johnson vaccine remained durable and effective during the delta variant surge is an encouraging sign for those who received the shot.
“It adds to this story that we know is true, that these vaccines continue to protect against hospitalizations, severe disease 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 ensure they are well prepared. The so-called “stealth omicron” variant now accounts for 75% of coronavirus cases globally but only 23% of cases in the U.S., according to the CDC.
Karin Porter-Williamson, director of palliative care at the KU Health System, said her division is focused on helping families and patients deal with the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of COVID-19. She said case numbers spiking last year after a tame summer where restrictions were dropped was a gut punch to many people’s mental health.
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 sustainable,” Porter-Williamson said. “We’ve worked to develop skills of resiliency, just to keep coming to work and doing our best job. We need to be able to adapt and just do the work that is in front of us the best that we can.”
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See more at https://kansasreflector.com/2022/03/21/kansas-covid-19-case-numbers-hospitalizations-slowing-as-weather-warms-up/