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Kansas confirms its 1st case of COVID-19 variant omicron

December 16, 2021 GMT

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Kansas confirmed its first case of the omicron variant Thursday, raising fresh concerns as hospitals already were seeing a rise in COVID-19 patients.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said in a news release that the infected person is a vaccinated adult in Franklin County in the northeast part of the state. The person had not received a booster. The health department said no additional details would be released to protect the patient’s privacy.

“The detection of the variant does not come as a surprise,” said Janet Stanek, the acting head of the department. “This virus is highly infectious and transmittable. We must do our part to protect ourselves and those around us.”

Since the variant was first identified in South Africa last month, it has been detected in a growing number of U.S. states.

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The announcement in Kansas comes as the state’s seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 1,340.29 new cases per day on Nov. 30 to 1,594.43 new cases per day on Tuesday according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Deaths also rose over that same period to 18.4 per day from 5.14, the data showed.

“We are on a steep climb.” said Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer for the University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City, Kansas, which had 12 COVID-19 patients in the ICU and seven on ventilators.

“We are a little nervous about that. We know they are climbing up in the city. And I think when you walk outside or you go into a restaurant, you go shopping, you know why. There’s no masking. It’s like there’s no infection out there.”

Stormont Vail Health reported Monday that the Topeka hospital accepted 22 transfer patients over the weekend, but rejected 40, including 16 with COVID-19 and nine from out of state.

Cindy Samuelson, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Hospital Association, said staffing issues are part of what it is making it hard to get patients transferred from small hospitals to larger ones that can offer more advanced care.

“But,” she said, “it’s not to the level it was last year at this time. So although it’s it’s a challenge ongoing for hospitals to have that higher capacity, it’s not what they had dealt with in the past.”