Miami County Health Department

Miami County Health Department

PAOLA — Four more Miami County residents have died in the past week. And hospitalizations are on the uptick.

Mark Whelan, emergency management coordinator with the Miami County Sheriff’s Office, delivered that grim news to county commissioners Wednesday, Jan. 13, during the commission’s weekly COVID-19 briefing.

Whelan said the county has 255 active cases, based on numbers released that day from the Miami County Health Department.

He also reported the county has 13 new hospitalizations this week.

“That’s a record for Miami County,” Whelan said. “We’ve never had more than two or three at a time.”

Whelan talked about the stress on the hospital system in the nine Kansas City metro area counties that make up the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), which includes Miami County. Most of the county’s COVID-19 patients are hospitalized in the metro area.

“We had 26 hospitals reporting as of noon (Wednesday) that 697 COVID patients are currently hospitalized,” Whelan said. “Those hospitals have a total of 2,762 non-ICU beds, and only 298 of those are available in the MARC region, so we’re just under 11 percent generic hospital bed availability.”

Only 112 of the 520 Intensive Care Unit beds in the MARC region are available, he reported.

“Of those 112, 74 generic adult ICU beds are available and only 38 COVID-specific ICU beds are available in the MARC region,” Whelan said.

Commissioners let that number sink in.

“And you said 38, for a population of over a million people,” Chairman Rob Roberts said.

Whelan nodded, “That’s correct.”

Commissioner Phil Dixon asked what kind of stress was the uptick placing on Miami County’s Emergency Medical Services.

“They are very busy. It’s not unusual for all four of the staffed ambulances (in Miami County) to be on calls, so it’s status zero,” Whelan said.

Status zero means no ambulances are available in Miami County at that particular time, and the county EMS has to rely on help from another agency to handle emergency medical calls when it occurs.

“They (ambulances) have to get them to the hospital, get them dropped off and get back in Miami County or clear the Miami County Medical Center as soon as they can,” Whelan said.

He said the county has recorded 2,148 cases since last March, and has administered 10,636 tests.

“We (currently) have an 11 to 13 percent positivitiy rate on the tests that are administered in the county,” Whelan said. “KDHE is still assisting with contact tracing and case investigations.”

He said 1,232 tests have been conducted in the parking lot of the Paola Adult Education Center since that free site opened in mid-December.

“We have lost 19 Miami County citizens, and that is absolutely tragic,” Roberts said after Whelan finished his report. “I wish there was a way we could collectively honor those lives and show our respect where we could because that’s just tragic.

“They were our citizens — our fellow men and women who chose to live here, and this loss of life is terrible, terrible to see,” he said.

Roberts relayed an account of how COVID-19 has affected families who traveled to holiday gatherings, against the advice of local, state and national health agencies.

“I can tell you from first-hand experience there is a difference from being very concerned and extremely concerned, and that is when it starts hitting your family,” Roberts said. “And I have two of them in the hospital today. They were family who chose to come and visit over the holidays. I wasn’t one of them. I didn’t go to their family. And now they are in the hospital fighting for their life.”

Whelan confirmed some cases are tied to holiday gatherings.

“The Christmas uptick is definitely starting in the metro,” Whelan said. “We kind of leveled off for a little bit and it’s climbing right back up.”

On a note of optimism, Whelan reported the Miami County Health Department received a new allotment of COVID vaccine that morning.

News Editor Doug Carder can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or doug.carder@miconews.com.

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