Johnson County COVID-19 hospitalizations keep climbing, and officials say that’s still due to Delta, not Omicron

COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise in Johnson County, including at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, above. The first confirmed Omicron case was verified Wednesday, but local hospital leaders say the Delta variant remains the major strain causing hospitalizations in the area. File photo.

Local hospitalization trends in Johnson County and the Kansas City metro continue to show a troubling upward trajectory heading into the second Christmas holiday being celebrated under a pandemic cloud.

The University of Kansas Health System said Wednesday that its number of COVID-19 patients continues to rise, topping 80, with all but two patients in its wards unvaccinated.

Likewise, AdventHealth Shawnee Mission officials said in the last month alone they have doubled their number of COVID-19 patients.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 40 active COVID-19 patients were in the hospital, said Morgan Shandler, AdventHealth Kansas City director of communications.

Of those, nine were in the ICU and eight were on ventilators.

On Nov. 22, Shandler said, the hospital had half that number of patients with only 20 active cases.

She said throughout late September and up until late November, the hospital had consistently remained between 15-20 COVID-19 patients at a time.

Overland Park Regional Medical Center officials say they too have seen an increase in COVID-19 patients, though not as much as Shawnee Mission.

Last week, Overland Park Regional had on average around 23 COVID patients per day.

According to an NPR database, about 6% of all hospital beds in Johnson County are taken up by COVID-19 patients. That’s considered “moderate,” according to the data set.

In comparison, the NPR data showed both Jackson and Platte Counties in Missouri were registering 20% of their hospital beds taken by COVID-19 patients.

During Wednesday’s daily COVID-19 briefing Dr. Steven Stites, the University of Kansas Health System’s chief medical officer, noted about 73% of all new cases were shown to be caused by the new Omicron variant in the United States, making it the dominant strain now circulating in the country.

However, Stites said, the new variant is not currently the dominant strain contributing to hospitalizations in the Johnson County area.

“It’s too soon to say what effect Omicron will have on hospitalizations, as the current surge is mostly from the Delta variant,” Stites said. “People want to say it’s less severe, but we really don’t know yet.”

The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment reported the first confirmed case of the variant Wednesday afternoon.