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COVID-19 cases tick back up in Kansas, with over 6,000 new infections since Wednesday

Andrew Bahl
Topeka Capital-Journal
COVID-19 cases again ticked up Friday, with over 6,000 new cases reported in the past two days.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported a rise of 6,234 cases of COVID-19 since Wednesday, as well as 127 new hospitalizations in that timeframe.

The state also saw an increase of 107 deaths reported, although KDHE data shows that only 17 of those occurred in the last two days.

The other fatalities may have occurred earlier in the pandemic, with death records only recently confirmed by the state.

Recent days had shown a relative dip in the number of new cases, although this could be in part due to the Thanksgiving holiday last week.

“Decrease in testing over the past four days of the Thanksgiving weekend, that may be contributed to that decrease in cases,” said Dr. Dana Hawkinson, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Kansas Health System.

Any increased transmission over the holiday will not have an impact on hospitalizations for some time, officials say.

Hospital officials report their facilities continue to see stress, although many say their numbers are flat-lining for the time being.

Dr. Sam Antonios, chief medical officer for Ascension Via Christi, said that was true of the system’s hospitals in Wichita, Manhattan and Pittsburg.

“We are very hopeful, as the community is beginning to have a good understanding of the seriousness of the disease, we will continue to see improvement,” Antonios said on a conference call with state and local officials.

Data from the Kansas Hospital Association showed that 18% of staffed intensive care beds were free as of Wednesday.

For hospitals struggling with staffing, Maj. Gen. David Weishaar, the state’s adjutant general, said that his office was working with hospitals to help determine if federal money could be used to hire more personnel.

And the Kansas National Guard had received approval for federal funding to cover 500 guardsmen as part of the ongoing pandemic response.

Weishaar said members will be deployed to help with the rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine. Duties also could include helping hospitals expand capacity, including providing additional beds and other resources if needed.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan coalition of legislators are urging residents to take mitigation measures seriously as the state moves along in the holiday season.

The group, led by Rep. Susan Concannon, R-Beloit, and Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, D-Kansas City, Kan., warned the implications for hospitals were “dire” unless something changed.

“This is not a COVID-19 crisis. This is a health care crisis,” the lawmakers wrote. “This holiday season, the greatest kindness you can give to your loved ones is doing your part to preserve their health.”