Kansas plagued by higher COVID mortality rates as ICUs fill to brim

Kansas health officials have since the end of July been reporting numbers of COVID-19 deaths not seen since the winter when the state faced its worst bout of virus-related deaths.

Kansas had a seven-day average of 3.3 virus deaths per 100,000 people as of Wednesday, according to data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While data from The Mayo Clinic showed the state’s fatality rate declined from about 1.61 percent in mid-July to 1.48 percent by Tuesday, a health official at one hospital in Topeka told local news station KSNT earlier this week that the mortality rate from severe COVID-19 infections is higher now than it was last September.

“A year ago, our mortality averaged approximately 1.8-2 percent mortality from COVID-19 severe infections,” said Salah Najm, the vice president of acute care services at Stormont Vail Hospital. Najm told the station the hospital is now encountering “around 2.5-5 percent mortality” among its COVID-19 patients.

A hospital in Topeka says its COVID-19 mortality rate has increased as ICUs across Kansas continue to fill with new virus patients. Above, nurses care for a COVID-19 patient inside the ICU at Adventist Health in Sonora, California, on August 27, 2021.
NIC COURY/AFP via Getty Images

According to a virus dashboard last updated Wednesday by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the state had a total case rate of 135.14 infections per 1,000 residents. Hospitalizations among adults with COVID-19 began to increase in July, and by mid-September reached levels not seen since January, with ICU admissions also inching back up to numbers reported near the start of the year.

About 24 percent of ICU beds were shown in the state’s data to be available as of Thursday morning. Of the 1,008 staffed ICU beds in Kansas, 762 were in use, with 165 of those used to treat COVID-19 patients.

The total number of COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals as of Thursday morning was estimated to be about 600, according to state data.

Though fewer than one-quarter of the state’s ICU beds were still available, ventilators were in greater supply, with about 77 percent not in use. Of the state’s more than 1,200 ventilators, only 84 were being used to treat COVID-19 patients, the state’s virus dashboard said.

Most of the recent virus cases in Kansas reported since May have been Delta variant infections, state data showed. The CDC identifies the Delta variant as spreading “much faster” than other COVID-19 variants and says it has the potential to cause “more severe cases” than other variants. The CDC has also noted that virus infections are limited among people who have been fully vaccinated against the virus.

As of Wednesday, the state health department reported that just over half of Kansas residents were partially vaccinated against COVID-19, while about 45.3 percent of all Kansans had been fully vaccinated.

Newsweek reached out to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

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