Kansas City-area hospitals overwhelmed, turn away ambulances

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations is so severe in the Kansas City area that some hospitals were forced to refuse ambulances due to a lack of space, according to officials with one of the region’s largest health care providers.

Eight hospitals, in both Missouri and Kansas, reported such high volumes of patients Wednesday night that they temporarily stopped accepting ambulances, said Dr. Marc Larson, operations director of St. Luke’s Health System’s COVID Response Team. A St. Luke’s spokeswoman added that two of the hospitals were part of the St. Luke’s system. She did not identify the others.

“We’re bursting at the seams in the metropolitan area, and really across the state and the region,” Larson told the Kansas City Star in a phone interview.

Missouri has reached record hospitalization levels several times over the past few weeks, with the latest record of 1,443 being set Wednesday. Data has not yet been released for Thursday or Friday. Among the regions setting new records was the Kansas City area.

“I worry that if we don’t start taking this seriously as a metropolitan area, we’re going to be the next New York,” Larsen said. “We’re going to be the next hot spot, because though we have a lot of hospitals, we have a lot of capacity in the area, we are filling up fast.”

Missouri is among several states seeing a surge in new virus cases. On Friday, the state reported 2,017 new cases and 17 additional deaths. Missouri has reported 152,571 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,459 deaths since the onset of the pandemic.

The outbreak is prompting the White House Coronavirus Task Force to recommend that universities in the state test all students before Thanksgiving break, KCUR reported. Some university leaders said it’s a costly plan and mass testing isn’t effective.

The task force urges schools to “work with university students to keep cases low, with the goal of low transmission in preparation for Thanksgiving.”

Twelve more inmates at the St. Louis County jail have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the number of current detainees with the coronavirus to 32.

Officials decided to test all 898 inmates after an outbreak was discovered on Oct. 2. As of Thursday, test results were pending for 103 inmates, St. Louis County Health Department spokeswoman Sara Dayley said.

Most of the inmates have no symptoms, but she noted three were experiencing mild symptoms.

After an inmate tested positive for the coronavirus during routine screening on Oct. 2, it prompted the facility-wide testing. Officials are still trying to determine the source of the outbreak.

Before October, the jail had reported 37 cases among inmates and 24 among employees. All of the earlier cases were traced to those bringing the virus with them once they entered the jail.

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