Jul 23, 2021 8:57 PM

Kansas City-area medical leaders may urge new mask mandate

Posted Jul 23, 2021 8:57 PM
Steve Stites, MD, Chief Medical Officer
Steve Stites, MD, Chief Medical Officer

KANSAS CITY (AP) — As the delta variant of COVID-19 makes its way through the Kansas City area, the region's medical leaders appear to be on the verge of calling for new mask mandates.

Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System, said that region is seeing a big increase in patients, the Kansas City Star reported.

“We are past the tipping point,” Stites said. “We are in trouble.”

Missouri is at the epicenter of the summer surge of the coronavirus, a surge driven by the fast-spreading delta variant and low vaccination rates in rural areas.

The spread has made its way to the urban areas, too. St. Louis city and county leaders have not ruled out new measures such as a mask mandate or social distancing requirements, as that region faces increasing cases and hospitalizations.

In the Missouri part of the Kansas City region, information from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services shows that 319 people are hospitalized — nearly triple the number from early April. The number of intensive care unit patients has more than doubled since June, to 84.

Stites said medical leaders from the Kansas City area were in agreement about mandates.

“I think you are going to find the chief medical officers are going to call for a reinstitution of the mask mandates and social distancing because we had that discussion this morning and we were all in favor of it because we’re in trouble in the hospitals,” Stites said during a briefing.

Southwestern Missouri continues to see the worst of the surge, and Republican Gov. Mike Parson announced Thursday that 10 advanced life support ambulances, 20 medical professionals, two “strike team” leaders and a logistics specialist are being sent to Springfield. Their role will be to help with transporting patients in a city where hospitals are near capacity.

They were expected to arrive Friday from Arkansas, and will remain for up to two weeks. A news release from Parson's office said a mutual aid agreement between states “allows for the sharing of critical resources when needed.”

“We will continue to do all we can to support the Springfield area and surrounding communities as we experience this increase in COVID-19 spread,” Parson said in a news release.

Springfield and Greene County earlier this month asked the state to fund an alternate care site to help handle the overflow of patients. Parson said the city and county are specifically asking that a hotel be converted into a temporary medical facility. The request has been submitted to federal emergency management officials, Parson's news release said.

State data shows 544 people hospitalized and 222 in ICU in southwestern Missouri, numbers that exceed the worst of the winter peak of the virus.