Delta variant peak could occur in early September, barring additional setbacks
By: Tyler Schneider
An Aug. 9th Zoom session hosted by the South Kansas City Alliance featured Interim Director of the KCMO Health Department, Frank Thompson, who gave updates on what the latest data can tell us about the latest COVID-19 trends in Kansas City and the Southland in particular.
“Based on watershed, sewershed data, the Delta variant is the only variant in the area that is currently circulating. This is escalating, and the numbers are comparable to what we saw last winter. Since the start of July, every two weeks, the number of cases we are seeing has doubled. In the beginning of June we had 100 [cases] per week. Last week, we saw over 1,500 cases in KCMO alone,” Thompson said, adding that this new variant is “twice as contagious” as the base form of the virus.
Keying off the overall theme of the Zoom session that evening, which featured area school district administrators, Thompson stressed the importance of returning students to in-person instruction as safely as possible.
“Over the past year we have had a significant number of our students who have lost a handle on their academic performance. It is imperative that our kids stay in school this year, or we’re going to see the effects of this 10 to 15 years in the future. The only way we keep them in school is if the adults around them go out and get vaccinated,” Thompson said.
The warning was not so accusatory in nature as it was a call for action for anyone, skeptical or otherwise ‘too busy’ to get the vaccine to this point, to do so for the sake of area students. To achieve this goal, Thompson, along with area districts, are looking to work with busy parents and make the process as easy and accessible as possible.
“As a department, we’re trying to align our vaccination efforts up with some of the back-to-school events as a way to get to the parents as they’re coming in to get their kids immunized. We’re also doing more community events and really trying to take this vaccine out to where people are and to make it as convenient as possible for the parents.”
Thompson went on to read some data for South Kansas City ZIP codes to bolster his concerns. 64113 was above the KC and Missouri average at 68 percent, followed by 64145 at 59 percent. The rest of the figures were a different story, with 64132 and 64137 both at just 32 percent of all adults having been fully vaccinated and 64134 at 36 percent.
According to Thompson, the average age of individuals hospitalized for COVID-19 prior to recent months had been 45 and is now 36. On the other end of the spectrum, he also took the time to dispel a popularly held belief that children were immune to the virus.
“Folks that are opposed to vaccination believe children aren’t infected or can’t transmit it to others. These recent numbers tell a different story. Altogether, 10 percent of our new cases are in children under 12,” Thompson said, before going into a sports metaphor that, he hoped, would paint a more blatant picture of the current health crisis.
Deaths, too, have seen an uptick, with the last ten plus weeks’ numbers showing over 40 deaths per week in Kansas City limits alone. The ‘peak’ of the Delta variant has yet to occur in the region.
“Based on the projections we’re doing right now, we would expect the peak to be near the end of August or the beginning of September — about two to three weeks after the mask order began [on Aug. 1],” Thompson said. “The challenge is that we’ve gotten back into the mindset where we think, ‘we’re back to normal’. This just isn’t the case. We’ve had six large community events in the city this past week, that’s six chances of mass spreading the virus.”
To close his update, Thompson offered a tried-and-true sports anecdote.
“We’re like a prize fighter that has decided to play with an opponent they could easily defeat. If we keep playing with it, eventually it’s going to mutate into a form that we can’t cope with, and it will knock us out instead,” Thompson said.