Local hospitals drained as COVID cases rise

Back in July, Sedgwick County reported about 650 weekly cases of COVID-19. For the week ending Jan. 8, 6,700 cases were recorded.
Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 5:37 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - During the public agenda section of Tuesday’s Wichita City Council meeting, local health leaders were on hand to discuss the current numbers.

Sedgwick County is nearing a record high for positive cases of COVID-19, at 21.1% over the last 14 days. You have to go back to November of 2020 to find a higher number than this when it reached 20.2%. The county is reporting just under 1,400 new cases since Monday and three new deaths.

Local Health Officer Dr. Garold Minns said everyone is “very fatigued and tired with covid, but COVID has decided that it’s not going to let us give up on it.”

It’s a situation that health leaders in the community say continues to get worse by the day. Back in July, the county was seeing about 650 cases of COVID every week. Compare that to now.

“For the week ending January 8th, we had 6,700 cases and I would suggest that’s an understatement since that probably doesn’t include the people who become positive using a home test. This virus has just taken over. It’s massively increased. That’s the highest number of cases we’ve had in a week since this whole thing started,” said Dr. Minns.

The latest wave is also causing a lot of strain on the hospitals. The latest numbers show more than 250 patients being treated for the virus in the community.

“This week it is very severe. We are seeing more and more patients coming into the emergency room which is causing delays in the emergency rooms, our ED’s are the busiest they have ever been since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Dr. Samer Antonios, Chief Medical Officer for Ascension Via Christi.

Dr. Lowell Ebersole, CMO for Wesley, said his hospital is doing care in waiting rooms which is “unprecedented but born out of necessity.”

“We’re seeing an increase in the number of patients seeking care in the emergency room to the point where it is impacting the care of other non-COVID-19 patients,” said Dr. Antonios.

As for the cause of the recent surge, Dr. Minns said they are probably not due to one factor but the omicron variant probably weighs heavily in this. Other factors include recent holiday gatherings, public health recommendations not being followed and the fact that only about half of the Sedgwick County population is vaccinated.

“The vaccine is excellent in protecting people from having serious illness from COVID,” said Dr. Minns.

“The majority of our patients are unvaccinated. The COVID patients are 90% of today’s patients are unvaccinated and that’s been very consistent,” said Dr. Ebersole.

Hospital staff is also being affected by COVID.

At Wesley, more than 100 employees, with about half being nurses, respiratory therapists and bedside staff, are at home quarantining, adding to the issues.

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