Coronavirus Media Briefing Tuesday 2-23-21

Coronavirus Media Briefing Tuesday 2-23-21

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The number of COVID-19 patients at The University of Kansas Health System is lower today. 33 people with the active virus are being treated, down from 36 yesterday. Of those patients, 11 are in the ICU, same as yesterday. Six of those ICU patients are on ventilators today, same as yesterday. 37 other patients are still hospitalized because of COVID-19 but are out of the acute infection phase, up from 36 yesterday. That’s a total of 70 patients, down from 72 yesterday. In addition, HaysMed has a total of 15 COVID-19 inpatients, up from 14 yesterday, with 11 of those active patients and four in the recovery phase.

On today’s Morning Media Update, KDHE Secretary Dr. Lee Norman joined to talk about efforts underway to fix vaccine data reporting issues in Kansas and why providers need to help with the challenge as future vaccine allocation could depend on the state’s reporting record.

Dr. Norman reported 88% of nursing and long-term care residents in Kansas have received the vaccine, with 65% of the staff at those facilities vaccinated. He says the state is looking at ways to increase the staff rate. He noted there has been a drop-off in testing across the state, as well as across the country, and gave his theories why. The good news, he says, is the percent positive rate in Kansas has dropped to about five percent and the hospitalization rate is lower. He adds that teachers and school staff across the state are being vaccinated and that should be complete in the next couple of weeks. He says 514,000 doses of the vaccine have been reported given to Kansans out of 645,000 doses sent to the state. But he knows the actual number is higher because of the lag time in reporting and explained new measures the state is taking to more quickly account for doses given. He says wastewater testing has been “remarkable” in helping give an accurate picture of the virus spread in the community. He addressed the question of crossing state lines to get the vaccine and has assurances from Missouri that a Kansan who goes there for their first dose can get their second dose in the same place. He says the same is true in Kansas. He’s hoping that by summertime, if vaccination rates reach 50-60%, things could start getting back to a more normal state. He believes it’s a balancing act between the public policy of loosening restrictions and the social psychology of fatigue, stress and resiliency and will take wisdom to figure it out.

Dana Hawkinson, MD, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at The University of Kansas Health System, says the current guidance is still not to double mask but to wear a well-fitting mask. He believes the current data on the lethality of the UK variant is inconsistent. He’s also glad to see, two weeks after the Super Bowl, there does not appear to be a big spike in COVID-19 cases. He’s optimistic, especially with new vaccines on the horizon, things may begin to “inch back towards normal,” by this summer.

Steve Stites, MD, chief medical officer at The University of Kansas Health system, reports hospitalizations from COVID-19 are down all over the Metro area, including a 70% decrease at the health system. He notes that the health system had about 25 staff members a day test positive in November and today it’s about one, with 84% of the staff vaccinated. He strongly recommends getting a vaccine wherever you can, even if it’s in another state. You just have to be sure you can return to the same place for the second dose. He had advice for older residents who want to get the vaccine but may not be computer literate. He also pointed out that someone who gets a vaccine because they “tagged along” with another person and got a leftover dose will be scheduled for their second dose at the same location. He urges us all to remember we’re on the comeback trail and if we don’t get overconfident by sacrificing the rules of infection prevention, we’ll all make it across the finish line together.

Wednesday, February 23 at 8:00 a.m. is the next Morning Media Update. Melissa Robinson, President of the Black Health Care Coalition and KCMO councilwoman, joins us to update initiatives to overcome vaccine hesitation among our African American communities. She will talk about how the coalition has been working to overcome trust issues and the work that needs to continue.