Warning that KC region is ‘losing the battle with COVID-19,’ health officials stress masks, social distancing

"Current mask-wearing mandates are an extremely important part of our efforts to once again flatten the curve," said the health officials. File photo.

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Johnson County public health officials Joseph LeMaster, MD, MPH, and Sanmi Areola, PhD, have joined their counterparts from the neighboring Core 4 jurisdictions in issuing a warning that if current COVID-19 trends continue, another round of shutdowns will be necessary.

In a jointly signed letter, the officials from Johnson County, Wyandotte County, Jackson County and Kansas City, Mo., say that “recent data suggest we are now again losing the battle with COVID-19” and that there has been a “dramatic increase in the number of new cases across the entire metropolitan area, and our front-line workers are having difficulty keeping up with the vast and increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases.”

You can find the full letter here.

The officials note that mask mandates are “an extremely important part of our efforts to once again flatten the curve,” and that they hope businesses will provide curbside and outdoor service options due to the increased risk of transmission when people are indoors and in close proximity.

“If we do not act quickly as a community and region, future shutdowns will be inevitable,” said the officials. “It may be important in the coming days to limit the interactions of individuals in bars, restaurants, and other indoor shopping venues – particularly where masks cannot be worn when eating and drinking.”

Difficulty tracking regional hospital resource usage

The letter also highlights the lack of ready access to information about COVID-19 hospitalizations, an issue that was recently the subject of discussion among the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners.

The federal government changed the system for collecting and reporting COVID-19 hospital data in June. Last week, the data on hospital capacity usage that regional officials had been able to access went offline.

“Last week…the hospital data stream became unavailable based on decisions made at the Federal level,” said the officials. “This decision has hobbled the efforts of local medical officers and front-line workers to track the spread of COVID- 19 and respond accordingly to our region’s needs.”