Stormont Vail Health is reinstituting heightened masking requirements for visitors and staff amid higher COVID-19 transmission in Shawnee County, a reminder of the virus’ presence ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
The decision, announced Thursday, requires visitors wear a mask when visiting the hospital or any clinic, with staff also required to mask in situations where they are encountering patients.
The move reverses course on a decision to relax masking requirements in October, as “community transmission of COVID-19 has been steadily increasing the past few weeks and now is at the ‘High’ level,” according to a news release from Stormont Vail.
The level of spread is determined based on the seven-day rolling average of cases, with 100 new cases per 100,000 residents deemed to be “high” levels of transmission.
How many new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Kansas?
Between Nov. 9 and Nov. 16, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported 2,574 new cases of COVID-19, as well as a rise of 26 deaths associated with the virus, though these could have occurred in previous weeks and months and only recently were reported to the state.
The combination of COVID-19, flu and RSV, an airborne virus that can infect the respiratory tract, has caused capacity issues at hospitals nationally. There are signs of that trend impacting Kansas as well, though hospitals in the region have not reported major issues as of yet.
Still, there is a trend of increased RSV cases among adults, far more than in a typical winter season.
“It certainly is a concern,” said Dana Hawkinson, director of infection control at the University of Kansas Health System. “Anytime we have people in the hospital, it is concerning and we know RSV can cause deaths, particularly in those senior populations.”
What Kansas counties have the highest risk ahead of Thanksgiving?
State and federal data shows some counties at a higher transmission risk than others.
As of Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list 15 Kansas counties as at high risk, based on case rates, hospital admissions and hospital utilization. They are Allen, Barton, Decatur, Doniphan, Edwards, Ellis, Graham, Gove, Logan, Rooks, Rush, Russell, Sheridan, Smith and Trego.
According to Kansas Department of Health and Environment data, 40 counties have case rates greater than 100 per 100,000 residents in the last week, meaning they have high levels of community transmission. Those counties are Allen, Bourbon, Brown, Chautauqua, Cheyenne, Clark, Crawford, Decatur, Graham, Greeley, Harvey, Haskell, Hodgeman, Jackson, Jefferson, Jewell, Labette, Lane, Lincoln, Mitchell, Morton, Neosho, Ness, Osage, Osborne, Phillips, Rawlins, Republic, Riley, Russell, Sheridan, Scott, Shawnee, Stanton, Stevens, Sumner, Trego, Wabaunsee, Wallace and Wilson.
Where can I get a COVID-19 booster dose in Kansas?
Data from the CDC pegs the percentage of Kansans who have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose at 80%.
But the number of individuals who have received the most recent booster vaccine dose is far lower, checking in at 10.8% of those ages 5 and older in the state.
The bivalent booster shots from Pfizer and Moderna were approved by the Food and Drug Administration earlier this year, the latest booster dose to fight COVID-19.
Uptake on the shots has lagged nationally, however, not just in Kansas. Nationally only 11.3% of those eligible have gotten the shot and Kansas actually has a higher booster vaccination rate than its neighbors in Oklahoma and Missouri.
Individuals interested in receiving a bivalent booster can do so at the Shawnee County Health Department; appointments are available by calling 785-251-5700. Residents can also walk-in between 8-11 a.m. or 1-4 p.m. on Monday, Thursday and Friday; between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and 3-6 p.m. on Tuesday and between 8- 11 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. on Wednesday.
Appointments are also available to receive the booster at a variety of retailers, including Walgreens, CVS, Dillons and Walmart.