As the Kansas City area passed the six month mark since the state’s first COVID-19 case, hospital officials and infectious disease experts met through a ZOOM call with school officials and other area leaders to discuss the disease’s local progression and how to avoid outbreaks.
The Sept. 2 event, available on YouTube, was recommended by Mary Jo Vernon, director of the Platte County Health Department who, in an email to The Landmark, had this to say about the virus:
“We are very aware that the public has grown weary of the continued public health messaging, as well as the sustained presence of the COVID-19 virus but in order to mitigate the presence of the virus in our communities we all must continue these efforts.”
The central message of the more than hour-long presentation– available at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNTNcHbjoB8&feature=youtu.be–included strongly worded advice from chief medical officers at area hospitals designed to contain the spread of the potentially deadly virus.
The comments included an opening remark and clarification from Kansas City Kansas Mayor David Albi: “Today’s event is not about politics.it’s about education,” he said before introducing the panelists.
The health professionals’ message becomes even more critical with the accelerating approach of the flu season, they said. Efforts to contain the virus now are urgent because health care systems can become overwhelmed trying to care for influenza cases while also dealing with burgeoning COVID cases, the panelists said.
The chief medical officers from several local health care systems reiterated common precautions that they said will help halt the spread of the virus, including distancing, mask wearing and sanitation practices.
Steven Stites moderated the message and began by stating what Kansas Citians already know: most have grown weary of common health precautions and are eager to resume life as we knew it prior to the pandemic.
“I want to go to the Chiefs’ home-opener,” he said, “but I’m not going.”
He stated that health care professionals, such as those participating in the conference call, are the best ones to address both preventive procedures and the impact the disease is having on area residents. Stites said the call brought together those who “are involved in critical care.based on our unique experiences about what we’ve seen.”
Ongoing preventive measures are hampered, experts on the call said, by “COVID Weariness Syndrome,” a condition caused by living in the pandemic for the past half-year. Those on the call referred to a recent Kansas City visit by Deborah Brix, who warned locals about our area being perfectly primed to become the next hot spot of the outbreak.
Birx, coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Response Task Force, said she noticed many Kansas Citians engaging in risky behavior, including failing to socially distance by continuing to gather in large groups and not wearing masks.
Stites described the virus and its impact as “unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” adding that its severity and long-term implications cause the Kansas City medical community to “convey a sense of urgency” for a disease that’s “much, much, much greater than the pain of influenza.”
Adiga Raghu, chief medical officer at Liberty Hospital, addressed the virus’s effects on our youngest, stating that “children are not immune to COVID. While younger children seem to have fewer cases, those ages 10 and older are more susceptible and have about the same rate of spread as adults.”
In fact, he quoted a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, that revealed as they reach adult height, they represent the fastest-growing group of new infections and hospitalizations.
The research especially is important as students are headed back to classrooms in waves, with the latest sessions starting this week.
However, Stites emphasized that unlike other public places, the spread is not being seen in hospitals. He said employees always are masked and shielded when around others, including co-workers and only de-mask when eating or drinking, which is done in isolation. He asked panelists to elaborate, to which Truman Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Mark Steele said there are numerous case studies “that highlight the importance of masks.”
David Wild, chief medical officer of the University of Kansas Health System, offered several “real-life stories” of Kansas City area COVID patients treated at his hospital and how they were affected. The first, an otherwise healthy college athlete who entered the hospital with symptoms of extreme fatigue. Physicians discovered an irregular heartbeat, known as arrythmia. He eventually was placed in intensive care with heart failure and, although recovered, likely will have lifelong heart issues. He now wears a life vest that shocks his heart when necessary.
“He’ll never have the opportunity to participate in athletics in a meaningful way again,” Wild said.
Another patient was an otherwise healthy female college student with severe lung complications. Her condition became so critical that doctors made the difficult decision to remove a portion of her lung.
Another patient, a male in his early 50s, whose only underlying health condition was hypothyroidism, spent 50 days in the hospital, some of which he was on a ventilator. He will suffer lifelong complications from the disease and subsequent treatments.
An otherwise healthy 60-year-old was unable to oxygenate or successfully remove carbon dioxide from his system and instead needed a machine to perform the task. This patient did not respond to that treatment and eventually died.
The panelists closed the session with a mask-wearing reminder in which Steele said: “There’s no better way to say, ‘I love you’ than to do it by wearing a mask.”