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Kansas sees rise of over 5,500 COVID-19 cases, 121 deaths

Andrew Bahl
Topeka Capital-Journal
Lee Norman, Kansas secretary of health and environment, answers media questions Thursday during a COVID-19 news conference at the Statehouse. Kansas reported a rise of 5,504 cases of COVID-19 between Wednesday and Friday.

Kansas saw a rise of 5,504 cases of COVID-19 since Wednesday, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported Friday. The state also noted an increase of 121 deaths.

The state is now nearing a quarter of a million COVID-19 cases since the virus arrived in Kansas in March. 242,322 cases have been recorded in that time frame, alongside 3,148 deaths.

Hospitals, however, are in line for a potential boost, state officials said Friday. 

Maj. Gen. David Weishaar, the state's adjutant general, said on a call Friday that a mechanism was being finalized where facilities could work with the Kansas Department of Administration to piggyback on state contracts for additional medical staff.

Staffing issues brought on by the pandemic have eased in recent weeks, although hospitals caution they aren't out of the woods yet. Data from the Kansas Hospital Association on Wednesday noted that only 11% of facilities in the state were fearful of staff shortages in the next week, a figure that was three times higher in November and December.

Twenty percent of adult intensive care beds were open in the state, KHA's dashboard said, with KDHE reporting 141 new hospitalizations since Wednesday.

In Topeka, Stormont Vail Health reported 55 COVID-19 patients in its hospital Friday.

Smaller facilities are still bearing a burden, said Neosho County Health Department director Brian Kueser.

"We’re having real trouble getting people transferred into the tertiary care facilities that provide care we can’t," Kueser said on a conference call with elected officials Friday.

Dana Hawkinson, an expert on infectious disease at the University of Kansas Health System, said that things were holding steady, albeit at a higher rate than officials might like.

"We are overall in that plateau," Hawkinson said. "A high plateau — we would like it lower, but at least it is not climbing up."