Concern about COVID-19 spike looms over Fourth of July celebrations

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. (WDAF) – As America celebrates Independence Day, doctors warn we aren’t free from the danger of COVID-19 or its variants.

While some aspects of the Fourth of July weekend differ between 2020 and 2021, others are much the same. In 2021, swimming pools are open, large gatherings are organized and public fireworks displays are planned. But, in 2021, just like in 2020, doctors are warning of the danger of spiking COVID-19 cases across the country.

“Yes, it is a concern. July 4,” Dr. Raghu Adiga, chief medical officer at Liberty Hospital, said during an update with The University of Kansas Health System. “Mostly those gatherings happen to be outside rather than indoors. That’s a plus, but again, not always.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Disease, said people can celebrate this Fourth of July, but the nature of that celebration should greatly depend on one’s vaccination status.

But at some point, you have to ask yourself, are you really safer not getting vaccinated when over 2 billion doses of vaccine have been administered throughout the world and people have not died from the vaccine? It’s just unheard of. You know what’s not unheard of? Dying of COVID-19.”

Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System

“… If you were vaccinated, you have a high degree of protection. If you are not, you should wear a mask, and you should think very seriously about getting vaccinated,” Fauci said. “So, in so many respects, nothing has really changed. We are celebrating as a country at the same time as we recognize the fact that we’re in a serious situation for those who have not been vaccinated. And the message is: Get vaccinated.”

The country’s seven day case average from June 23-29 has seen a 10 percent jump, according to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

“If you’re not vaccinated, you’re not safe,” said Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System.

During an update on Facebook Thursday morning, the University of Kansas Health System warned that hospitals in the Kansas City metro are already full because of illnesses other than COVID-19. They warn that a large surge following the holiday weekend will be dangerous.

“One of the things we should be afraid of is that hospitals are full and they’re full throughout our community,” Stites said. “That’s because all the normal stuff is back out there again. As masks have come off what we’re seeing is that people are getting sick.

“Routine colds, heart failure acting up, all of the things that would happen to us normally are happening now. And just to say we’re not usually this full in June, but we’re really full. And everybody’s really full. So if we have a surge, trouble will come a lot sooner this time than it did last time.”

Health experts warn the delta variant is much more transmissible than other strains of coronaviruses. They say the best protection against COVID-19 and the delta variant is to get vaccinated, something health departments in many states are struggling to convince people to do.

“There’s just not a lot of defense against not getting vaccinated except, I’m gonna say it, paranoia,” Stites said.

“I understand fear, everybody has the right to make that choice on their own, I have a fundamental belief in that. But at some point, you have to ask yourself, are you really safer not getting vaccinated when over 2 billion doses of vaccine have been administered throughout the world and people have not died from the vaccine? It’s just unheard of. You know what’s not unheard of? Dying of COVID-19.”

Something else that’s not unheard of is cities and countries going backwards that are now reinstating restrictions because of a concerning spike in COVID-19 cases. Los Angeles County, Britain, and Israel have taken steps to try to stop another surge in cases.

“It’s all about the people who aren’t immunized,” Stites said. “I think we need to be really concerned and I’m not saying it’s time to do that in Kansas City, but I’m saying we may enter into that, so I just urge everyone out there, over the holiday weekend to please be safe and remember, the rules of infection control, whether they’re required or not, are the rules that will keep you safe and if you’re not vaccinated, you frickin’ need to have a mask on. If you don’t have a mask on you’re throwing the dice.”

Many retail pharmacies, grocery stores, and health departments have walk-in vaccination times available, no appointment necessary. Check with yours for availability if you need to get vaccinated.

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