Why trying to get herd immunity is a bad idea for COVID-19

Wyandotte County reported 80 additional COVID-19 cases on Friday, for a cumulative total of 7,710, according to the UG’s COVID-19 website. There was no change in deaths, which remained at 145. (From UG COVID-19 webpage)

Intentionally trying to get COVID-19 to get herd immunity is a bad idea, according to doctors at the University of Kansas Health System.

Reports have surfaced nationally that some youth are trying to get COVID-19.

It’s like playing Russian roulette with your health, said Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer for the University of Kansas Health System. He discussed it at the KU Health System news conference Friday morning.

It is not sound thinking, he said. There are better ways to make money than to sell your own plasma, he added.

If the immunity lasts four to six months, which is what they think now, then the reality is you have to get it every six months, he said.

That’s a terrible idea, because you’re playing with a loaded gun every six months, he said.

”Just because you’re young, stop thinking you’re invincible,” Dr. Stites said.

It’s not just about death, he said, it’s also about injuries you can incur. People will have long-term lung or heart illness or neurological impairments from memory loss, he said.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control at KU Health System, said herd immunity is a very dangerous prospect. It’s not just going to stay with the young people, but will spread to older people who are more vulnerable.

If you’re trying to get COVID-19 to sell plasma, there’s good evidence to suggest if you have mild or no symptoms, you may not mount enough antibodies to be helpful for anyone, he added.

Getting to herd immunity that way would cause so much more destruction and suffering, compared to what we have now, if they are able to get to 90 percent, he said.

There are more reports now of reinfection within three to four months of the original infection, Dr. Hawkinson said.

Dr. Stites said large numbers trying to get herd immunity would result in closing all the businesses and schools, and sheltering in place.

Safe voting in the fall elections

Dr. Stites said he already voted in person in early voting in Missouri, and thought it was great.

Wyandotte County is offering mail-in ballots, voting early in person and voting on Election Day, Nov. 3, at regular polling places. The first group of mail ballots were mailed to voters Wednesday, and the earliest advance voting in person starts on next Tuesday.

Polling places are working hard to make sure people maintain 6 feet of distance and wear a mask, and there was hand sanitizer everywhere, he said.

Amanda Gartner, RN, director of quality and safety at KU Health System, said there are things people can do to stay safe while voting.

Dr. Stites said they’re not seeing transmission of the virus from patient to patient in the hospitals, so if people can be safe in hospitals, they can do it anywhere if they wear masks and socially distance. He encouraged people to vote early.

Gartner said if people have concerns, call ahead. If voters take precautions they should be safe.

Dr. Hawkinson said people should be safe voting if they wear masks, socially distance and wash their hands.

KU hospital busy with patients

KU Health System is very busy, but it is with different conditions and it’s generally busy this time of year, according to Dr. Stites.

The 800-bed hospital in Kansas City, Kansas, has lost 45 beds when semi-private rooms were converted to private rooms. Then, COVID-19 generally takes up about 60 beds, for a total of 100 fewer beds than usual, he said Friday morning.

“By far the overwhelming majority of the patients we’re taking care of don’t have COVID,” Dr. Stites said. “That’s just normal routine care, and we’re heading into the busy season of the year.”

That’s why it’s so important to wear a mask, wash hands and socially distance, he said. It’s not just about COVID, it’s about influenza and rhinovirus and other illnesses, he said. If people wear masks, distance and wash hands, they are protected against all those viruses. If people do that they can take care of everyone , he said.

Hospitals are more full this time of year and it’s not a surprise, he said, COVID just pushes it a little higher.

“I don’t think anybody is getting denied care,” he said. At this time, they haven’t slowed down elective surgeries in the Kansas City area, he said.

They don’t want to see people who may be in pain delaying their care, Dr. Stites said. That has led to worse diagnoses for some people.

All the hospitals in Kansas City are still taking care of everybody, he said.

In Pittsburg, Kansas, they had a surge there and did put a halt to elective surgeries on Thursday, he said. Kansas City doesn’t want to end up like that, he added.

Gartner said whenever hospitals are concerned about their capacities, they work with other community hospitals to make sure they can provide the care that is needed.

Dr. Hawkinson said systems are in place here where intensive care unit directors meet regularly to discuss the capacities. They work together and coordinate as a team when they need to, he said.

Dr. Stites said the chief medical officers of hospitals also meet regularly, and the community has done a great job meeting together and working together.

“Kansas City should be proud, people work really well together,” he said.

KU Health System reported 26 COVID-19 inpatients on Friday morning, down from 27 on Thursday, with 11 patients in the intensive care unit, increased from eight on Thursday, and eight on ventilators, an increase from seven on Thursday, according to Dr. Hawkinson. He said one patient is on an ECMO machine, used for critically ill patients to replace the function of the heart and lungs. Thirty-five patients are past the acute infection stage but are still in the hospital, he said. HaysMed in Hays, Kansas, reported 14 COVID-19 inpatients on Friday morning, down from 19 on Thursday, with two patients in the recovery stage.

Wyandotte County reported 80 additional COVID-19 cases on Friday, for a cumulative total of 7,710, according to the UG’s COVID-19 website. There was no change in deaths, which remained at 145.

Johnson County reported a cumulative total of 12,744 with a total of 173 deaths, according to the KC Region COVID-19 Resource Hub. Kansas City, Missouri, reported 12,884 cumulative total cases with 165 total deaths.

The state of Kansas reported 1,700 additional COVID-19 cases from Wednesday to Friday, for a cumulative total of 70,855, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. There were an additional 21 deaths since Wednesday, for a cumulative total of 859.

The Kansas City Region COVID-19 Hub, a nine-county area, the Kansas City area has an average of 122 new hospitalizations a day, around the same average as last week. Numbers of cases in the hospital, on ventilators and in the ICU have increased. Average cases in the region are down, and tests are down this week. The average number of deaths is down slightly this week.

Free testing continues on Saturday, Oct. 17

A free COVID-19 pop-up test will continue from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 17, at La Fe en Jesucristo, 1500 Central Ave., Kansas City, Kansas.

Next week, starting Monday, the Health Department testing location is changing to the former Kmart store at 78th and State. The hours will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The tests now are open to asymptomatic people as well as those who have symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19. Check with the UG Health Department’s Facebook page to see if there have been any changes in the schedule because of the weather or for other reasons.

More information about testing is at https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/pages/what-to-do-if-you-think-you-have-covid-19.

The KU doctors’ news conference is at https://www.facebook.com/kuhospital/videos/887426178454013.

The KDHE’s COVID-19 webpage is at https://www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/.

The UG COVID-19 webpage is at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information.

The Unified Government COVID-19 hub outbreak map is at https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/.

To see an NEA list of schools that have had COVID-19 cases, visit https://app.smartsheet.com/b/publish?EQBCT=aa3f2ede7cb2415db943fdaf45866d2f.

The KC Region COVID-19 Hub dashboard is at https://marc2.org/covidhub/.

The CDC’s COVID-19 webpage is at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.

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