New COVID-19 cases in the Kansas City area reach such extreme heights that hospitals are being forced to turn away ambulances with new patients. According to The Kansas City Star, hospitals in Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas lack the space and manpower to see all the new patients coming their way. Dr. Marc Larsen told reporters: "We're bursting at the seams in the metropolitan area, and really across the state and the region."
Larsen said eight hospitals in the area had to temporarily stop accepting ambulances on Wednesday night due to their overfull capacity. A spokesperson for St. Luke's Health System said that at least two hospitals were in that network. The others have not yet been identified, but St. Luke's is one of the region's largest health care providers. Missouri has reportedly reached record-high levels of hospitalizations over the last few weeks, including 1,443 patients on Wednesday.
"I worry that if we don't start taking this seriously as a metropolitan area, we're going to be the next New York," Larson said. "We're going to be the next hot spot because though we have a lot of hospitals, we have a lot of capacity in the area; we are filling up fast."
Missouri counted 2,017 new coronavirus cases on Friday, and 17 new deaths, adding to the 152,571 confirmed cases and 2,4549 deaths overall since the pandemic began. The White House Coronavirus Task Force has reportedly recommended that universities in the state test all students before the Thanksgiving break due to the surging numbers.
Missouri and Kansas are not alone. New coronavirus cases are on the rise in most states, and public health experts say the nation is approaching a "third peak" in the pandemic. A report by The Salt Lake Tribune attributes rising numbers in Utah to cold weather, suggesting that people are less likely to stay outside where the risk of transmission is lower now that the temperature is dropping.
Utah is expecting to encounter a similar hospitalization capacity issue shortly, the Tribune reported. Public health officials reached out to Gov. Gary Herbert this week, asking for him to approve their diagnostic criteria for deciding which patients should prioritize hospitals that are packed full.
"We told him, 'it looks like we're going to have to request those be activated if this trend continues,' and we see no reason why it won't,'" Utah Hospital Association president Greg Bell told the paper.