14-day average number of cases higher than ever
key metric used in measuring the COVID-19 impact locally is trending higher than ever, according to local public health officials.
Dan Luebbert, deputy director of the Platte County Health Department, says one of the most important metrics is the number of COVID-19 cases diagnosed the previous 14 days per 100,000 population, also known as the 14-day rolling average.
“The 14-day rolling average number of cases reported in Platte County (outside of Kansas City limits) is at its highest point since the pandemic began,” Luebbert told The Landmark on Monday.
That 14-day rolling average number of cases stood at 368 as of Saturday, Nov. 7.
A month ago that 14-day rolling average number was at 294, then it trended downward to about 250 as late as Oct. 25. It has been steadily heading upward the past 10 days to two weeks, in data supplied by Luebbert.
“The virus is widespread so it’s more important than ever that we continue to physically distance and wear face coverings,” Luebbert stressed this week.
“As the temperature drops and we enter the holiday season, people have a tendency to want to gather indoors. I understand that desire, but we have to sacrifice some of that togetherness this year. If we don’t, this COVID-19 cloud will continue to hang over us and more people will continue to lose their lives and their livelihoods,” Luebbert said.
The number of deaths of Platte County residents, including those within Kansas City in Platte County, due to COVID-19 is at 48.
The 14-day rolling average of cases per 100,000 population is the key metric area school officials in the area have said they consider most important. News that the metric is on an upward trajectory in recent days comes as Platte County R-3 prepares to welcome its middle school students back to full in-person classes on Nov. 30.
Platte County R-3 is planning to bring back high school students for full in-person classes on Jan. 11, after the Christmas break.
Elementary students have already been in full in-person status for this school year.
Luebbert said the number of cases diagnosed in previous 14 days per 100,000 population is the preferred metric for two main reasons:
1. The 14-day moving average allows the user to view trends without the “noise” that’s seen when looking at daily data. For example, if you have 20 cases on Monday, then 10 on Tuesday, one might conclude that cases are dropping. Then, on Wednesday, you have 15 cases and it appears cases are rising. The 14-day moving average smooths the trajectory of the trend lines and shows a clearer picture of what’s happening over time.
2. The rate per 100,000 allows the user to compare jurisdictions or population groups (race, ethnicity, age, gender, etc.) in an ‘apples to apples’ manner and appears to be a more reliable metric than the percent positivity rate, which may appear artificially inflated when the volume of testing is inadequate.
“Schools are using the 14-day moving average number of cases as one of several ‘quantitative measures’, in addition to several ‘qualitative goals,'” Luebbert said.
The news of the steady upward trend in key numbers comes on the heels of City Hall in Platte City being shut down for a few days recently after an outbreak among a few members of city staff. And as reported in last week’s Landmark, the Platte County Courthouse is on limited activity as far as court proceedings after at least one positive case among courthouse staff. Judicial trials are canceled through Dec. 31 and other court actions are on a limited basis.
ALARM TO LAWMAKERS
Chief medical officers (CMOs) from The University of Kansas Health System, Liberty Hospital, North Kansas City Hospital, Truman Medical Centers/University Health, Saint Luke’s Health System and Advent Health/Shawnee Mission briefed about 150 area lawmakers on Friday, Nov. 6 on what could be an upcoming COVID-19 crisis in the community.
The number one message the CMO’s had for lawmakers is hospitals are concerned about capacity. They pointed out that on Monday of this week, 277 COVID-19 patients were being treated in area hospitals while as of today, the number has risen to 318 and it’s climbing. For some hospitals, ten percent of all their patients are COVID-19 patients. According to some counts, the Metro area is up to 700 new COVID-19 cases a day. Doctors say it’s up to elected officials to deal with the rising numbers in whatever ways they deem necessary, but urged them to convey to the public the pillars of infection prevention, and that those who wear masks and avoid large gatherings help keep businesses open and keep people out of hospitals.
Doctors discussed the difference between licensed and staffed beds. For most hospitals, the number of staffed beds is lower than the number of licensed beds. Staffed beds are those that are ready with full resources to handle patients. They noted that staffing shortages exist at many hospitals making it difficult for some to keep up with the rising demand, as COVID-19 is now the number one reason for hospital admissions across the city. The hospitals report very few numbers of patients admitted who have been reinfected with COVID-19.
Doctors first noticed two weeks ago it was becoming hard to transfer patients from rural areas to hospitals in the Metro area. While hospitals are doing their best right now to take care of everyone and not turn patients away, it may be unavoidable in the near future. It may force some to prioritize who gets care. They all say they have contingency plans in place.
In the early stages of the pandemic, hospitals also had to delay all elective surgeries, which caused bigger problems for those who needed those procedures. For most hospitals it took about three months to get through the backlog, which may be too long for heart, stroke or cancer patients. They hope it does not come to that again. Doctors strongly advised people not to put off screenings or any health care, especially if they’re concerned about the safety of a doctor or hospital visit. They pointed out that in any city, hospitals are the number one hot spot for COVID-19, yet there have been no confirmed cases of anyone in a hospital catching the disease from those patients. That’s because of the infection prevention measures in place for staff and patients.
Their overall message to the public is the infection prevention rules work, we bent the curve before, and we can do it again. But everyone must do their part by wearing a mask and avoiding social gatherings, which are likely the main cause of the current rising numbers of COVID-19 cases. They hope elected leaders can reflect this urgency in their words and actions to their constituents.