After days of sharp increases in the numbers of COVID-19 patients at The University of Kansas Health System, the numbers are steadier today. 33 patients with the active virus are being treated, down from 38 yesterday. Nine of those patients are in the ICU, down from 13 yesterday. Five patients are on ventilators, the same as yesterday. 22 other patients are still hospitalized because of COVID-19 but are out of the acute infection phase, up from 16 yesterday. That’s a total of 55 patients, up from 54 yesterday. HaysMed has five active patients, the same as yesterday.
On today’s Morning Medical Update, what does the Delta variant coupled with less masking mean for fall sports? Dr. David Smith, a sports medicine physician at The University of Kansas Health System who sits on the Kansas State High School Activities Association Sports Medicine Advisory Committee joined us. Also joining was school nurse Shelby Rebeck, director of Health Services for the Shawnee Mission School District. They explained new guidelines and changes school nurses are making to protect your children.
Shelby Rebeck discussed new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics for schools recommending that everyone over age 2 wear masks this fall, even if they have been vaccinated. The universal masking recommendation is a departure from the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month, which recommends masking in schools only for unvaccinated people over age 2. She says that will be a challenge as 50 percent of parents don’t want their kids wearing masks at school. She feels it will be up to each school district in the state to do what’s best for their individual community. She wrestles with the decision of universal masking, knowing it’s the safest thing for everyone in school, yet knowing it will be up to school staff to police that in the building. She’s very concerned that the highest vaccination rate for 12 to 18-year-olds in all zip codes of the Shawnee Mission School district is just 30 percent. It’s only 20 percent in the other zip codes in the district. She urges everyone to comply with whatever their board of education decides and hopes every parent will get their kids 12 and older vaccinated before school starts.
Dr. Smith said they have learned a lot in the last year about the right and wrong way to have student athletes participate in sports. The biggest problem has been the improper use of masks. For example, a coach will pull down his mask to scream at a player, then put it back up when he’s standing alone, the opposite of what should happen. Same with the athletes, who have a hard time due to the nature of their game keeping their masks on. He says the best way to avoid these problems is for every eligible player and coach to be vaccinated, though only 30 percent of the students so far have done so. He says they all need physicals before starting their sports season and that’s the best time for the vaccination. Nobody, he says, wants to be the one case of COVID-19 that shuts down the whole team, so all the athletes have to think and work like a team to protect one another. He says last year they learned what works, from masking to social distancing to ventilation to hand hygiene. The biggest challenge this year, he adds, is to get rid of the myths and misinformation about masking and vaccinations. He stresses that sports are going to happen. The question is are they going to start and keep going or start and have to stop because one team member didn’t do what they needed to do. He reminds us, “We’re in this together. We’re a team, we’re a community. We cannot be selfish.”
Dr. Bahr said now that masks have come off, doctors are seeing a big uptick in RSV cases in kids, which is unusual for this time of year, and were practically non-existent last year. He feels it might be the same for the flu this year, after having zero admissions during the last flu season. He emphasized that those who are being hospitalized now with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, except for people with other serious underlying medical conditions. For those worried about myocarditis from the vaccine, he says the risk is much worse from the virus itself. To those who claim masking doesn’t work, he says they are just plain wrong, as many scientific studies have proven they do. In his words, “I just want to rant a little. It’s not just about our own risks. This is about our neighbor’s risk, our loved ones risk, and somebody we’ve never met, and we should care about all those people. And so us getting vaccinated helps protect all those people. This is something where healthcare systems are really strapped trying to deal this this right now around the region and broader as well. We’ve really got to think about the whole community.”
Wednesday, July 21 at 8:00 a.m. is Open Mics With Dr. Stites. It's been 40 years since the start of the AIDS pandemic. He and his guests who have now lived through two pandemics talk history, how far we've come and what we've learned.
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