After several weeks of rapidly rising COVID patient numbers, things are steady today at The University of Kansas Health System. 119 with the active virus are being treated, the same as yesterday. Only 13 of those patients are fully vaccinated. Two patients died since yesterday, making 15 deaths since the beginning of January. 23 COVID patients are in the ICU, up from 18 yesterday. 16 are on ventilators, up from 13 yesterday. 45 other patients are still hospitalized because of COVID but are out of the acute infection phase, up from 43 yesterday. That’s a total of 164 patients, up from 162 yesterday.
Emergency departments are getting slammed, both with COVID patients and emergencies common for this time of year. How do you know when it’s appropriate to go there for help? Today’s Morning Medical Update guests included Gail Schuetz, assistant chief nursing officer for Inpatient and Emergency Services at the health system and Dr. Ryan Jacobsen, emergency physician at the health system and EMS physician adviser and medical director of Johnson County EMS. They joined Dana Hawkinson, MD, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control to discuss how to know when to go to the emergency department during the COVID surge.
Here are the key points from each of today’s speakers:
- COVID surge greatly affecting wait times in ER. 20 patients waiting for a bed when normally it’s zero
- Don’t come to the ER just to get a COVID test unless you have symptoms
- After Christmas, COVID patient cases sharply higher as well as staff absences from COVID
- For staff with COVID, we are adjusting our return-to-work protocol for those who are positive and asymptomatic from 10 days to seven days. This is based on clinical evidence that viral load diminishes quickly in the initial stages of infection and antibodies begin developing soon thereafter.
- Only come to ER for life threatening conditions like trauma, car accidents or heart attacks. See urgent care for anything non-life threatening
- Considering a plan that would have 911 operators screen callers to decide whether they need an ambulance rather than automatically sending one.
- Nationwide EMS shortage before the pandemic made much worse with COVID
- So called “wall time,” in which ambulance patients must wait with EMS crew on gurney for ER bed, keeping EMS crews from helping others
- Vaccines were never meant to stop COVID. They reduce severe illness, hospitalization and death.
- The vast majority of hospitalized COVID patients are not fully vaccinated
- If you have mild COVID symptoms, best to manage at home. Seek medical help if worsening cough, shortness of breath or chest pain.
- Hospitals and doctors’ offices are the safest places in the city. Don’t put off health care because of COVID fear.
Wednesday, January 12 at 8:00 a.m. is the next Open Mics With Dr Stites. Will predictions that omicron will peak at the end of the month hold true? We’ll hear from Doctor Catherine Satterwhite, Region 7 health administrator for Health and Human Services, and Doctor Lewis Satterwhite, a Critical Care Physician here at the health system.
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