The COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen in Kansas, as state officials reported reported its highest two-day case total since the pandemic began Friday.
The Kansas Department for Health and Environment reported 5,418 new cases since Wednesday.
79 deaths were also reported in that time frame, alongside 83 hospitalizations. The state’s test positivity rate remains one of the highest in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University, with 33.2% of samples coming back positive.
"Today’s case numbers, combined with the staffing and capacity issues hospitals are currently facing, is terrifying to me and to those working in public health," said Lee Norman, secretary of health and environment, in a Twitter post.
While the states urban areas continue to see the most elevated spread, the highest per capita case rates are in the western part of the state, led by Norton and Ford counties.
New clusters were reported in connection with a plastics fabrication firm in McPherson, an elementary school in Nemaha County and a tool manufacturer in Hiwatha.
Hospitals and health officials have continued to sound the alarm that bed and staffing capacity is becoming a significant worry.
Many facilities in western Kansas have already become overwhelmed with cases, officials say.
In recent weeks, facilities in Wichita have also filled to capacity, with the two largest hospitals in the city reporting earlier this week that they were invoking their backup plans tp free up more intensive care space.
The problem persists in other regions as well. Hospital officials in Kansas City, Kan. said in a briefing Friday that capacity in the area was starting to become a worry.
The threat exists, officials said, that postponing elective procedures could soon be on the table for facilities, especially as staffing concerns rise.
Steve Stites, chief medical officer for the University of Kansas Health System, said that only two-thirds of the free intensive care beds at their flagship hospital in Kansas City, Kan. could be staffed presently
And the hospital is having to turn away patients from western Kansas who have the virus, with scores of correspondences each day from facilities five or six hours away.
"We don’t normally get calls from those hospitals and we’re getting them every day," said David Wild, vice president of performance improvement for the KU Health System.
In Hutchinson, city, county and business officials have launched a campaign to help slow the record spread of the virus in the area. It comes after hospitals in Reno, Sedgwick and Butler counties have all had to divert patients to other facilities.
"Out of respect and concern for our friends and loved ones, practice these measures which have been proven to be effective," said Dr. Keck Hartman, infectious disease specialist at Hutchinson Regional Medical Center. "If we do, we will sooner be able to return to work and school safely."
And in Topeka, county health officials say hospitals are "bursting at the seams" as the holiday season nears.
"I am very concerned," Shawnee County Health Department Director Linda Ochs said about Thanksgiving gatherings. "People are dying from this virus... I am very concerned... about the holidays coming up."