Members of a November conference in Kansas City are reconsidering their travel plans because of the rise in COVID-19 infections in the metro and across Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas said this weekend.
In an email Friday to Lucas, Gov. Mike Parson, Visit KC and the Convention Center, the conference’s director said its members were “increasingly concerned” about the rapidly rising cases and the “accompanying lack of an effective vaccination program.”
“It made everything a lot more real,” Lucas said Sunday of the email. “Look, we got a problem.”
Lucas tweeted about the email Saturday and read it aloud to reporters gathered Sunday evening outside a Gucci Mane concert on the north lawn of the National WWI Museum and Memorial, where people who received an on-site vaccine were entered into a drawing to win two backstage passes.
The conference’s email, Lucas said, was a sign the city needs more efforts to get people vaccinated. The city plans to hold a similar effort at the sold-out Garth Brooks concert next week at Arrowhead Stadium, with more than 58,000 expected attendees.
“It means we got to take these efforts one person at a time, one group at a time, one concert at a time,” Lucas said, adding that he hoped the mask mandate taking effect Monday will show the city is taking the virus seriously.
Lucas did not disclose the name of the November conference to reporters, but it is expected to bring nearly 1,000 attendees from 45 states to Kansas City. The group chose Kansas City following a national search, which included considering Reno, Salt Lake City and Denver, in part because of the quality of Convention Center and “the walkable and centrally located community that surrounds it.”
But the group said recent statistics printed in The Star were “impossible to ignore.”
Those facts included the city’s vaccination rate, which is “significantly below” the U.S. average, as well as the fact that the metro area saw an increase in more than 3,100 new infections in the last week, a 50% jump from the week prior.
The conference also noted that Missouri has the nation’s fourth-worst COVID-19 diagnosis rate over the past week, with “one in every 360 people diagnosed with COVID-19.”
Members of the group say the city’s rising cases and its “weak” vaccination rates are “putting their attendance at this essential economic gathering at risk.”
The group asked for increased communication with city officials to pass along information to its members.
“Any positive information that you can provide on this topic will be shared with them to help calm their concerns and move forward with their travel plans,” the group wrote.
As of Sunday, the virus has killed 2,336 metro residents and infected 161,074 to date in the region, which encompasses Kansas City and Jackson, Clay and Platte counties in Missouri, and Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas.
The seven-day rolling average for new infections in the region has spiked in the last month. That figure was 90 on July 1; it was 557 on Sunday, according to data maintained by The Star. At the height of the pandemic, it was more than 1,100.