Health department officials in Kansas City and its surrounding three counties are pleading with residents to follow safety precautions amid an increase of coronavirus cases that they say could lead to further shutdowns and overwhelmed hospitals.

KANSAS CITY — Health department officials in Kansas City and its surrounding three counties are pleading with residents to follow safety precautions amid an increase of coronavirus cases that they say could lead to further shutdowns and overwhelmed hospitals.

The officials from Kansas City and Jackson County, Missouri, and from Wyandotte and Johnson counties in Kansas issued a letter Friday saying it is important to wear masks, social distance and limit group gatherings to slow the virus' spread.

"We are extremely concerned that hospitalizations will continue to escalate in the coming weeks and months," officials said, "and that the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 will lead to increasing ventilator use and deaths. Despite hoping this would not occur, we predicted that this was a possibility at some point after the relaxation of the stay-at-home orders."

On Saturday, the region encompassing Kansas City and Jackson, Clay and Platte counties in Missouri and Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas added 743 new coronavirus cases — the fourth consecutive day with more than 400 new cases. The region has now recorded 16,535 confirmed cases. 

Confirmed COVID-19 cases have risen sharply across Missouri since Republican Gov. Mike Parson allowed the state to reopen for business in mid-June. The state recorded 1,357 cases Saturday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 40,709, with 1,182 deaths.