Kansas has reached another grim marker in its ongoing battle with COVID-19.
After residents became fatigued with the ongoing toll of the virus, they ventured outside more and more, congregated with friends and families, and stopped wearing masks (if indeed they had ever started). Case counts began to climb.
And as long predicted, hospitals throughout the state are now staggering under the weight. The question is not necessarily the number of beds available, although that might be a challenge in some communities. It’s also about staffing those beds, as medical personnel push through exhaustion and illness of their own.
This is very bad.
It’s not simply bad because more people are being swept up in the pandemic. It’s bad because full hospitals and stretched staff don’t make for optimal patient care conditions. We could well see worse outcomes across the board, not just for COVID-19 cases but for anyone who might need to be hospitalized.
What’s most depressing about this state of affairs is how easily it could be foreseen. Kansas avoided the worst of the first wave of the virus this spring, which seemed largely confined to urban centers. We saw a bump during the summer, but too many at that time had retreated to their ideological corners when fighting the virus. All the while, anyone who followed COVID around the globe knew that it was only a matter of when, not if.
Letting down our guard allows the virus to spread. Period.
It’s heartening to see that additional medical treatments are coming online. The promise of an effective vaccine sent stocks soaring this week. These will play a giant role in bringing the pandemic to a close. But they will also take months to roll out fully.
That means we have to buckle in and batten down this winter. We must wear masks when around people not in our homes. We must avoid unnecessary trips. We must keep at least six feet away from others and avoid crowds. We must wash our hands and keep abreast of trends in our communities.
These interventions work. We’ve seen their effectiveness in Kansas, in communities across the United States and around the world. They will slow the spread and reduce the burden on hospitals. They will keep us and our loved ones safe.
Let’s stay focused and persistent. Please.