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ICU beds almost full at hospitals in the Kansas City area

Intensive care units are nearly full across the Kansas City area, creating challenges for hospitals battling to keep up with the high number of COVID-19 patients.

The Kansas City Star reported that 215 ICU beds in the region were in use last week — the most since the onset of the pandemic — and that number has grown almost every day since. As of Wednesday, 224 people were hospitalized in ICUs, according to hospital data tracked by the Mid-America Regional Council, a regional planning agency.

The data includes hospitals in Jackson and Clay counties in Missouri and Wyandotte and Johnson counties in Kansas.

Kansas City isn’t unique in Missouri. Data posted Friday on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard showed 690 ICU patients across the state among 2,395 people hospitalized with COVID-19.

In addition to the rising number of cases, health care workers blame the severity of the illnesses, staffing shortages and the refusal of so many to get vaccinated for the challenges hospitals are now facing. Kansas City-area hospitals have had to transfer patients, both with and without COVID-19, as far away as Chicago and Oklahoma City.

“It just breaks my heart that we’re at this point,” said Allison Edwards, a doctor and the owner of a small direct primary care clinic in Midtown Kansas City. “I don’t even know how to begin to ration care. How do you start to make these decisions of where to put your priorities when business as usual can’t happen?”

The state dashboard on Friday cited 2,158 newly confirmed cases and 26 additional deaths. Missouri has reported 624,239 cases and 10,435 deaths since the pandemic began.

With vaccination rates still lagging in St. Louis, the city is offering an event Friday and Saturday with two purposes: Forgiveness for outstanding warrants, and a chance to get vaccinated. Even more incentive: Those who show proof of full vaccination can get $100 off their fines and court fees.

City leaders say the warrant forgiveness program allows anyone with outstanding warrants to resolve the charges without fear of arrest on city charges, and without the expense of posting cash bond. A vaccination clinic will also be on-site.

Only 46.2% of St. Louisans have initiated vaccination, about 5 percentage points lower than the state as a whole. Nationally, 61.1% of Americans have initiated vaccination, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The original conception of the event was to make vaccination clinics available at the same time as the amnesty to give people the opportunity to get vaccinated,” Municipal Judge Newton McCoy told St. Louis Public Radio. That idea was later expanded to give an incentive to those who have already been vaccinated.

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