WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A hospital in southeast Kansas is putting the brakes on some procedures as coronavirus cases continue to climb steadily statewide and the positivity rate tops 17%.

Randy Cason, President of Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg, said this week in a statement that the plan to “pause elective and non-emergent procedures" will allows leaders to reallocate staff to help care for an influx of patients.

“Our first priority is always the safety of our patients and associates,” said Cason. “We are fortunate to have close relationships with our sister hospitals in Wichita and Manhattan who may be called upon to help provide additional clinical support and resources.

Statewide, 3,370 patients are hospitalized with the coronavirus, with 35% of ICU beds still available, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said Friday.

The agency also said the state had 1,700 new confirmed or probable cases since Wednesday, a 2.5% increase that brought the total for the pandemic to 70,855. Over the past week, the state has averaged 721 new cases a day. The state also said the number of deaths increased by 21 to 859.

According to data from The COVID Tracking Project, the 7-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Kansas has risen over the past two weeks from 15.51% on Oct. 1 to 17.1% on Thursday. Only six states are reporting a higher percentage.

Meanwhile, business is booming for one segment of the economy in Kansas during the coronavirus pandemic: liquor stores. The Wichita Eagle reported that tax collections on liquor sales at stores are up 17.9% from July to September compared to last year, according to data from the Kansas Department of Revenue.

It's not just Kansas. The data organization Nielsen says liquor sales at stores are up 22.7% nationwide from March 1 through mid-September compared to the same time last year. The surge in alcohol sales comes as bars and restaurants have taken a severe hit due to the pandemic.

“So instead of going to the bar and buying their drink, they’re going to the liquor store and taking it home with them," said Kansas Department of Revenue Director of Taxation Steve Stotts.


The number of deaths has been corrected to 21, not 27.