TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – While coronavirus’ status in Kansas is transitioning to an “endemic,” according to state leaders, that doesn’t mean the virus is no longer a concern for health officials.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, an infectious disease specialist with the University of Kansas Medical Center, told Kansas Capitol Bureau that they’re ready to “pivot” if there’s a future spike in cases.

“Just because elected leaders, or business people, or whoever we look to… because they use one term or another… i.e. ‘pandemic’ or ‘endemic’…I think we have to understand that for much of the world, the pandemic is still going on, and I think you have to look at your own community, your own country and judge those things,” Dr. Hawkinson said.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly and the state’s health department announced last week that the state is shifting to ‘endemic normalcy,’ following neighboring states like Missouri. According to health officials, while coronavirus is still circulating, metrics are moving in the “right direction.”

Hawkinson also noted that operations have changed as ICU beds are freeing up, and they’re able to take in more patients and schedule surgeries. He said they’ve also looked at other adjustments in the near future.

“Soon, we will be going to not testing every admission for a PCR test to look for SARS-COVID-2 virus,” Dr. Hawkinson said. “That will affect our numbers, obviously, but if we should see surges, we know we will probably pivot back to testing every admission…”

Hawkinson said that it could be hard to predict when the next surge could happen and that the hospital has learned to adjust quickly as needed. State health officials gave a similar response, as they emphasized that they’re still staying prepared for a future surge.

“This shift does not mean that COVID is over, but rather we are working to manage the disease in a way that allows us to maintain a more normal life that is once again filled with friends, families and other loved ones,” said KDHE Secretary Janet Stanek.

The state put an end to contact tracing back in January. Now, according to a spokesperson for the state health department, most KDHE testing and vaccine sites have been discontinued.

“There are some tactical changes to phase our response from emergency to endemic, like the amount of data we are tracking. We have also discontinued most KDHE testing and vaccine sites. While the state has entered into a new normal, Kansans should use the tools available to protect themselves. This includes staying up to date on vaccination, getting tested, staying home when sick, and wearing a mask in high-transmission areas.”

Matt Lara, Kansas Department of Health and Environment