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Hospital beds filling up with recent COVID-19 surge
One new COVID death reported in Barton County
Living with covid - Tribune.jpg

A wave of COVID-19 cases across Kansas created a shortage of hospital beds earlier this month.

Kathie Sharp said she and her husband spent two days visiting The University of Kansas Health System - Great Bend Campus emergency room with his 95-year-old mother.

“Both Thursday and Friday (Oct. 7-9), we were told there was no room in the hospital to admit her because of COVID,” Sharp said. “We are having to be hopeful that she will improve at home with antibiotics with cellulitis. She was in the hospital three days at the first of the year with the same condition. We know if her condition worsens there will be a struggle to find a hospital room in Kansas.”

John Worden, interim administrator at the Great Bend hospital, couldn’t talk about specific cases but said after a patient is stabilized the next step is finding the best option for treatment. That might include sending a patient home, possibly for outpatient care, or it could include home health or skilled nursing. Sometimes, the patient is transferred to another hospital.

Even without COVID-19, he said, it isn’t uncommon for the 33-bed hospital to be at 70-80% of capacity.

“COVID has really stretched that,” he said. “There are times hospitals all over the region are at capacity,” he added. “With this surge, more patients are being admitted than normal.”

Employees and their families can also be subject to COVID-19, both the illness and related quarantines, Worden continued. “COVID takes all of the slack out and pushes it to the red line.”

Although transmission rates have pushed hospital admission up over the last 60 days, there is evidence that people who have been vaccinated have a lower morbidity rate and in some cases milder symptoms than those who are not vaccinated.

“The vaccine is absolutely fantastic,” Worden said. Although employees at the Great Bend campus are not required to get the vaccine, he said there is a high acceptance rate among the staff.

KDHE stats

Since the onset of the pandemic, Kansas has had 430,293 COVID-19 cases, resulting in 14,665 hospitalizations and 6,242 statewide deaths as of 9 a.m. Monday. There were 1,477 new cases, 61 new hospitalizations and 31 new deaths reported since Friday, Oct. 22, including one new death in Barton County, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Here are the totals for area counties, with the change since Friday:

• Barton 3,872 (+28)

• Ellsworth 1,391 (+8)

• Pawnee 1,468 (+7)

• Rice 1,454 (+8)

• Rush 506 (+2)

• Russell 1,124 (+4)

• Stafford 596 (+13)

Prior to Monday, the last new area death was reported on Oct. 15, in Stafford County. Here are the death totals for area counties as of 9 a.m. Monday:

• Barton 57 (+1) 

• Ellsworth 28

• Pawnee 15

• Rice 15  

• Rush 15

• Russell 33 

• Stafford 16

Great Bend USD 428

Great Bend USD released its weekly COVID-19 report as of 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. There were 17 active positive cases and 143 resolved cases for the semester. Here are the active and resolved cases by building:

• GBHS 2 - 38

• GBMS 2 - 23

• Eisenhower 1- 34

• Little Panthers Preschool 0 - 3

• Jefferson 3 - 16

• Lincoln 1 - 17

• Park 3 - 1

• Riley 4 - 7

• District Education Center 0 - 1

• Helping Hands Preschool 1 - 0

• Special Services 0 - 2

KDHE stats

To date, Barton County has had 120 people hospitalized due to COVID-19, including 25 intensive care unit (ICU) admissions. KDHE reports that 80 patients have been discharged, although the data only includes cases with available discharge information reported to KDHE. The median age of patients in September was 49.

Pawnee County has had 60 total hospitalizations, including 14 ICU admissions, and 42 discharged patients. The median age in  September was 70.

Statewide, there are 576 staffed ICU beds among 44 hospitals reporting. As of Monday, 346 of those were in use, including 63 used for COVID-19 cases, leaving 40% of all ICU beds available. Also, 84% of the state’s ventilators were available and 1,348 inpatient beds were available with 188 COVID-19 patients admitted.

Barton, Pawnee, Rice and Stafford counties are in the South Central Health Care Coalition Region; Rush and Russell are in the North West Kansas HCC Region and Ellsworth is in the North Central Kansas HCC Region.

South Central: 210 staffed ICU beds, 123 in use (31 for COVID-19) leaving 41% available; 81% of ventilators available; 13 hospitals reporting 81 COVID-19 patients admitted; 470 inpatient beds available.


Barton County ranked 76th out of 105 counties Monday in Kansas COVID rankings, where No. 1 is least at-risk and No. 105 is most at-risk. The county ranked 83rd in the category of vaccination rate, with 46% of the eligible population fully vaccinated against COVID-19; 65th in cases, with 7-day average daily cases at 42 per 100,000 people; and 37th in COVID-19 tests, with 7-day average daily at 464 per 100,000 people.

Pawnee County ranked 56 overall. The county ranked 31st in vaccination rate, with 54% of the eligible population vaccinated; 85th in cases with 7-day average daily cases at 58 per 100,000; and 46th in tests, with 7-day average daily at 408 per 100,000.

Other area rankings

Ellsworth 21st overall; 20th in vaccinations (56%); 70th in cases (44); 26th in tests (545)

Rice 62nd overall; 77th in vaccinations (46%); 49th in cases (33); 47th in tests (407)

Rush  64th overall; 35th in vaccinations (53%); 42nd in cases (28); 97th in tests (231)

Russell 83rd overall; 81st in vaccinations (46%); 97th in cases (85); 16th in tests  (654)

Stafford 60th overall; 66th in vaccinations (48%); 101st in cases (113); 4th in tests (1,152)

Key insights

• Kansas has full vaccination in about 63% of the eligible population (12+), ranking 28th nationally, but within Kansas there is significant variation by county.

• Currently, the CDC indicates that 104/105 (99%) of the counties in Kansas are at a “high” or “substantial” risk of transmission, reinforcing the need for local leaders to engage.

School-Based Testing

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment was awarded a federal cooperative agreement that includes $74 million for school districts to support increased COVID-19 testing in pre-K through 12th-grade schools and school-affiliated summer programs and camps. 

A robust COVID-19 testing and vaccine strategy supports safe, in-person learning and activities, providing another layer of protection for students, teachers, and staff, while slowing the spread of COVID-19 in the community.