Pandemic straining Kansas hospitals days before Thanksgiving

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Surging pandemic numbers are straining hospitals across Kansas just days before Thanksgiving gatherings that public health officials fear could worsen the outbreak.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported on Monday 95 new hospitalizations, bringing the total of hospitalizations to 4,777 since the start of the pandemic. The state’s COVID-19 dashboard showed 240 coronavirus patients were in ICU units, with 36% of ICU capacity remaining in Kansas.

State health officials added 7,526 cases to the state’s pandemic tally since Friday, bringing the total to 142,059. The data showed that Kansas averaged 2,760 new confirmed and probable coronavirus a day for the seven days ending Monday. That is just slightly below the record average of 2,766 cases.

The number of COVID-19 related deaths also rose by 46 to 1,456.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly requested on Monday an extension of federal authority allowing the use of Kansas National Guard to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the state. The letter requests extension of 100% of funding for up to 500 National Guard members through the end of March.

“With the President’s approval, this extension will enable Kansas to maintain community-based testing, continue distributing medical and testing supplies, and ensure Kansas businesses can stay open,” Kelly said in a news release.

Chuck Welch, vice president of the Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System, said his hospital has averaged about 30 COVID-19 patients since October, compared to about four in the months before — an increase of more than 600%. Nurses have had to take about 10 shifts in a row, with less time off, Welch said.

“And not just the nurses, the physicians, we have four pulmonologists that are working around the clock, our respiratory therapists, our lab people, our imaging people. Everybody is just stretched,” Welch said, “our housekeeping, they have to go in and clean those rooms thoroughly before we can put anybody else in on them.”

The University of Kansas Hospital broke records on Monday for the total number of hospitalized coronavirus patients, those in the ICU and the number of virus patients on ventilators, the Kansas City Star reported.

The hospital had 139 COVID-19 patients, said Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control at The University of Kansas Health System.

Of the 100 patients deemed active coronavirus cases, 46 are in the intensive care unit, and 26 of those in the ICU are on a ventilator, he said. In addition to those active cases, 39 other patients are in recovery at the hospital.

Chuck Welch, vice president of the Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System, said his hospital has averaged about 30 COVID-19 patients since October, compared to about four in the months before — an increase of more than 600%. Nurses have had to take about 10 shifts in a row, with less time off, Welch said.

“And not just the nurses, the physicians, we have four pulmonologists that are working around the clock, our respiratory therapists, our lab people, our imaging people. Everybody is just stretched,” Welch said, “our housekeeping, they have to go in and clean those rooms thoroughly before we can put anybody else in on them.”

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