Morning Medical Update Thursday 12-16-21

Media Resources

Jill Chadwick

News Director

Office: (913) 588-5013

Cell: (913) 223-3974


The number of COVID patients at The University of Kansas Health System continues to be on a steep climb. 45 with the active virus are being treated, up from 43 yesterday. 41 of the 45 active cases are in patients who are not vaccinated. 12 COVID patients are in the ICU, up from 11 yesterday. Seven are on ventilators, up from six yesterday. 26 other patients are still hospitalized because of COVID but are out of the acute infection phase, up from 21 yesterday. That’s a total of 71 patients, up from 64 yesterday.

            With an impending surge of COVID cases on the horizon, Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer of The University of Kansas Health System, reminded people to get vaccinated and get their booster shot.

            “It does make a difference,” he said. “It really helps around Omicron.” He also pointed to some good news around a new AstraZeneca antibody drug for COVID.

            The specific concern now is the potential flood of COVID patients that can overwhelm hospitals. “What it means is if you have other time-sensitive diagnoses, like a stroke or a heart attack, or if you’re a trauma patient, your care can be delayed,” he said of the influx of COVID patients taking up hospital resources. “And delayed care can mean much worse outcomes or even death.”

            The program will really focus on this topic during tomorrow’s program with chief medical officers from area hospitals convening to discuss this situation. On today’s program, the focus was on how COVID has impacted high school students. School isn’t just about academics, it includes social interactions. So how are students able to adjust to school given the limitations of COVID?

Johna Geist, teacher of biomedical sciences at Pleasant Hill High School, and three of her students joined the program to talk about the types of curriculum they are covering – especially around the virus and epidemiology. One impactful project she assigned to her students was expressing how they felt as they adjusted to life dealing with COVID precautions at school.

Kiley Faust, a senior, developed an art piece that reflected how she felt about the situation. It was a woman with half of her face with a mask and the other half without a mask. She said life during COVID took a toll on the mental health of students – they couldn’t socialize with friends like they normally would in high school.

Isabel Bakken, a senior, wrote about her experiences. A passage of her writing includes this: “March 16, 2020: I was on my way to get my driver’s license. My 16th birthday had been the day before I had heard about the spread of COVID, but I never thought it would come so quickly. I heard my mom’s sigh as I looked over to see the despair in her face. She had told me that the school had decided to shut down for two weeks due to COVID.”

Isabel said she is still adapting today.

Morgan Lassiter, a senior, also developed a written piece as part of her assignment. She said adapting to the changes was difficult. “Our town was very torn with what they wanted to do,” she said. “As students, we really didn’t get to put our opinion in with how we wanted things to go. They kind of just told us what we were going to do and thrown into it.”

She said students were divided into “shifts” to attend school and she wasn’t able to see many of her friends.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at The University of Kansas Health System and Dr. Stites were impressed with how these students adapted and reiterated that it is important to consider the impacts of decisions, especially how being in school is so essential.

“They didn’t have a voice in what happened to them,” said Geist. “They had to do a lot of learning on their own. It changed them. It changed them all in a different way.”

Dr. Stites and Dr. Hawkinson also answered community questions. When asked about how long after you are vaccinated to wait to get the booster, they recommended you wait for six months after your second dose to get the booster. You still have protection against COVID, including Omicron, if you are fully vaccinated, but need to wait to get the booster. But once you are eligible, they recommend getting the booster.

            On the topic of Omicron being more transmissible, they said it may peak faster and cases may go down faster as it is doing in South Africa. But they caution that Omicron may behave differently in different places depending on vaccination rates and other factors.

One question was about side effects from the booster and both doctors recommended moving forward with the booster. They acknowledged there may be minor side effects, but they are limited, while the booster will help you longer term.

Friday, December 17, at 8:00 a.m. is a special edition of the Morning Medical Update with chief medical officers of area hospitals convening to discuss the potential surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

NOTE:  Journalists should rejoin the Morning Medical Update at 8am as doctors are growing too busy again for individual interview requests. Please bring questions or send to until further notice. Thanks for all you do and helping to keep the community safe with your reporting.


ATTENTION: media procedure for calling in:

 The meeting is available by Zoom, both video and by phone. To join the Zoom Meeting by video, click

Telephone dial-in Participants: For those without Zoom, call 1-312-626-6799, meeting ID: 782 897 8628.

The feed is also available via TVU grid. The TVU source is UoK_Health_SDI and is being made available to all.

Feel free to send questions in advance to