‘I really think we have peaked’: COVID cases continue to fall in Kansas City

Emily Curiel/ecuriel@kcstar.com

COVID-19 case totals continued to decline this week alongside hospitalizations in the Kansas City metro area.

“I really think we have peaked as far as reported cases (and) also hospitalizations,” said Dr. Dana Hawkinson, the medical director of infection prevention and control at The University of Kansas Health System in a Friday news briefing. “There is a good trend now of those decreasing (nationwide) numbers.”

All local counties are at a “medium” community level of COVID-19 except Jackson County, which remains “high” since last week. Every county remains at a “high” transmission level. That means that while treatment for COVID-19 is generally available, there is still an elevated risk of catching the virus in public.

What does Kansas City’s COVID-19 data look like this week?

Officials reported a total of 2,163 new cases in the Kansas City area since last week. That’s lower than last week’s total of 2,8683 new cases. That means the metro saw around 309 cases per day in the past week, down from around 383 per day the previous week.

Since many people are taking COVID tests at home, which aren’t publicly recorded, experts say real case totals are likely anywhere from two to five times higher than what data shows.

The state of Missouri is no longer reporting death counts at the county level. Johnson County and Wyandotte County each reported two new deaths in the past week. That brings the Kansas City metro area’s death total up to at least 4,346 since the pandemic began.

What are the COVID-19 risk levels in the Kansas City area?

Jackson County is the only county in the metro still at a “high” community level of COVID-19. That means the CDC recommends wearing a mask indoors regardless of your vaccination status, maintaining good ventilation and getting up to date on your vaccines and boosters.

Clay, Platte, Johnson and Wyandotte counties are all at a “medium” community level. This level carries similar recommendations, but masks are not encouraged indoors at this level unless you are immunocompromised or indoors with someone who is.

Johnson County rose to this level from “low” last week, while Wyandotte County dropped to this level from “high” last week.

All five counties that make up the Kansas City metro area remain at “high” transmission levels, along with most of the other counties in the nation. That means your risk of catching COVID-19 in public is still elevated, even though medical care may be easier to access than before.

How are hospitals holding up?

The University of Kansas Health System is treating 21 patients with active COVID-19 infections, down from 24 at this time last week. Three of these patients are in the ICU, and three of them are on a ventilator, the same as last week’s totals.

“Right now the dominant variant continues to be BA.5 in the United States,” said Hawkinson. “Right now, we haven’t really seen any other new variants identified that are of concern… I would expect that any new surge would involve a new variant.”

The BA.5 strain of the omicron variant has the ability to evade some antibodies caused by vaccination and past infections, so it is reinfecting some people who have had COVID recently. However, the protection provided by currently available vaccines and booster shots is still the best defense against severe illness and hospitalization from COVID-19.

How vaccinated is the Kansas City area?

Vaccination rates in the area are rising slowly, with 63.37% of the population fully vaccinated in the Kansas City region. Eastern Kansas has a higher vaccination rate, at 71.97%, than western Missouri does at 56.96%.

Getting vaccinated and obtaining a booster shot is still the most effective way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Both mRNA booster shots (Pfizer and Moderna) are safe and effective at reducing the risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death.

Do you have more questions about staying safe from COVID-19 in Kansas City? Ask our Service Journalism team at kcq@kcstar.com.