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Kansas reports sharpest increase in COVID-19 deaths since start of pandemic

Andrew Bahl
Topeka Capital-Journal
Staff members monitor patients in a corridor of Stormont Vail Hospital converted into hospital rooms Wednesday afternoon as an influx of COVID-19 patients filled portions of the hospital.

Kansas reported Wednesday the sharpest increase of deaths over a two-day period since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with a rise of 119 fatalities linked to the virus.

It appears that most of the deaths did not occur in the last several days, and is possible that the dramatic increase is due to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment squaring death records from weeks prior.

The rise in deaths most heavily impacted older Kansans, with roughly two-thirds of the deaths coming among residents age 75 and older.

Statewide, 4,615 new cases of COVID-19 were reported by KDHE since Monday, as well as 185 new hospitalizations in that same timeframe.

Hospitals continue to report capacity problems. Hutchinson Regional Medical Center, for instance, is reporting that both its intensive care and COVID-19 wards are full.

The overflow ward for COVID-19 patients is also close to capacity, hospital staff told the Hutchinson News, and other supplies were also dwindling.

“We’re literally down to a handful of vents and a handful of beds,” said HRMC Vice President Chuck Welch. “We’re buying everything we can get hands on, but none are available. Shortages are extending past PPE (personal protective equipment) to actual physical machinery.”

In Topeka, Stormont Vail Hospital said they are expanding the number of so-called “negative pressure” rooms, which help with infection control, due to the rising number of COVID-19 patients.

The Kansas Hospital Association reported as of Monday that 24% of staffed, intensive care beds in the state are free.

The state also reported a number of new COVID-19 outbreaks, with most of the clusters remaining concentrated in long term care facilities and prisons and jails.

Kansas Department of Corrections had 71 cases linked to an outbreak at their central office in downtown Topeka.

KDOC Spokesperson Carol Pitts said most of the department’s staff has been working from home but that some still need to come into the office.

Masks and temperature checks are required for anyone entering the office, Pitts said, and any in-person meetings that need to occur are capped at four members in a larger conference room.

It was unclear if staff or visitors were allowed to enter the building since the outbreak occurred.

“We continue to follow KDHE guidelines concerning cleaning and other mitigation protocols,” Pitts said in an email.