Residents and health care workers are awaiting changes from the rollout of Phase 2 of the governor’s vaccination plan in Kansas, as well as changes made Thursday at the federal level aimed at getting the COVID-19 vaccine to the population faster.
Although everyone 65 and older in Kansas is now eligible to receive the vaccine, along with those who live in congregate settings and high-contact critical workers, there is not enough vaccine currently available to give to those groups.
Gov Laura Kelly said Thursday in a news conference that the state’s three priority groups in Phase 2 were created with input from local and federal partners. The goal was to protect as many Kansans as possible, as quickly as possible, she said. Health departments may decide if any of the three groups should be prioritized in each community, she added.
The rate of the vaccinations will depend on the number of doses the state receives from the federal government, Gov. Kelly said.
This week, the state received 18,525 doses from Pfizer for first doses, as well as an additional 17,800 first doses and 17,000 second doses from Moderna, she said.
The state’s vaccine website, kansasvaccine.gov, reported there have been a total of 202,225 doses distributed in the state; with 129,349 doses recorded as administered. Of the 129,349, 111,632 were first doses and 17,712 were second doses, with 3.8 percent of the Kansas population receiving the vaccination so far.
In the future, the state’s vaccine website also will include a vaccine finder map so people may locate vaccine providers near them, the governor said.
“Our problem we have in Kansas primarily is supply,” Dr. Lee Norman, Kansas secretary of health, said. “The distribution coming from the federal government has pretty much kept up with what they have, but we just do not have enough.”
The state is pushing out all the vaccine doses it has to the counties, he said.
Hope that vaccine production to increase from federal level
With President Joe Biden invoking the Defense Production Act on Thursday morning, Gov. Kelly said she is hopeful that the amount of vaccine production will increase.
“We have needed this for a long time,” she said. “The response to this kind of emergency really does need to be driven from the federal government down to the state government, like any other emergency of this magnitude.”
Gov. Kelly said she was thrilled and looked forward to the state receiving more vaccine.
“As we go into Phase 2, the number of Kansans now eligible for vaccinations has just skyrocketed and we need a like number of vaccines coming into the state to take care of everybody,” she said.
President Biden on Thursday announced several COVID-19 orders aimed at improving the supply chain and increasing the supply of vaccine. He also ordered testing for those traveling between states on planes, trains and buses, and named the CDC as the agency that will coordinate vaccine distributions through local pharmacies. In addition, The Federal Emergency Management Agency will set up 100 community vaccine centers by the end of the month. The administration’s goal is 100 million doses distributed within 100 days. There also is an effort to get rapid antigen home testing for COVID-19 .
The President also said in a news conference that it will get worse before it gets better, and it will take months to get everyone vaccinated.
‘Be patient,’ residents advised
The Wyandotte County Health Department was part of the “Core 4” group of public health directors that issued a news release Thursday asking residents to “be patient” with vaccine distribution.
Demand for the vaccine is high, but supply is very limited, according to the Core 4 group.
“We are working closely with state partners and with other health organizations designated as vaccinators by the states to coordinate and distribute the vaccine,” the health directors said in their statement. “We are working to ensure everyone who wants to be vaccinated is served. We thank the public for their patience while waiting their turn to receive the vaccine.”
Kansas has now moved into Phase 2, but the first phase priorities are still in place, which list health care workers and long-term nursing facilities first, the news release stated.
The Unified Government Health Department is taking information from Wyandotte County residents, and those who work in Wyandotte County, who want to receive the vaccine. A survey form is available on its website at wycokck.org/COVID-19, and residents may click on the “Vaccine Interest Form” button to fill out the Health Department’s survey. Anyone who needs assistance filling out the form may call 3-1-1 and a Unified Government operator will assist them. When the vaccines become available, the residents may be contacted using the information on the form.
According to the area health departments, all vaccines will be given out by appointment only, not by just showing up at a vaccine site.
Case rates declining, system ‘unclogging itself’
At the State Finance Council meeting on Thursday, Jon Rolph, a Wichita restaurateur and a member of the Kansas Board of Regents, who has been leading calls with regional health care leaders and reporting back to the State Finance Council, said Kansas has not seen a large expected surge in COVID-19 cases from the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The State Finance Council includes legislative leaders.
There has been a drop of almost 200 hospital patients statewide between Jan. 8 and Jan. 18, he said, as well as a drop in the number of hospitalized patients in intensive care unit beds.
The numbers are moving in the direction they want to see, he said, and the positivity rate in the state also has dropped from 12.2 percent two weeks ago to 8.7 percent statewide in the most recent data.
“It would appear,” Rolph said, “that the system would be unclogging itself.”
Metro area hospitals were getting full or close to capacity in the intensive care units in December into January, and now the trend is in the direction they want to see, he said.
While it appears they are off the tipping point, they are still not back to where they were before they saw the November and December surge, he said.
Rolph attributed part of the improvement in staffing at hospitals to the vaccination of health care workers, and they are seeing less of the winter viruses like the flu, he said. The mitigation efforts of masking and meeting in smaller groups are working, he said. The state also has had strong success around antibody testing, he added.
“That could all change with the new variant,” Rolph said.
A more contagious COVID-19 variant has been reported in other states, although Kansas has not discovered it here yet, and health officials think it probably has arrived already. They are concerned if it becomes dominant, he said.
KDHE is doing more testing, Rolph said, and also working on a faster turnaround time. They are currently experimenting with a mail-in spit test system in Ellsworth County, he said.
“People are going to need to have patience as we move into Phase 2,” Rolph said. A large part of the population is contained in that phase, he said.
Vaccine is dripping into the state, not flooding into it, and there is a race to get the vaccine distributed before they see another surge caused by the more contagious variant, he said.
Rolph said the Kansas Stop the Spread campaign that was launched in November to December created some of the success of reducing the spread of the virus.
He also reported that staff morale is a concern among some hospitals and health care workers, who have seen a larger number of COVID-19 related deaths in January.
Vaccine supply based on population numbers
At the University of Kansas Health System news conference on Thursday, Dr. Catherine Satterwhite, regional health administrator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said vaccine distribution in Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa was going well, and there is always room for improvement. Supply is a challenge, and it isn’t at a level that they would like to see because of national availability. There were not large quantities of vaccine sitting on shelves, she said.
She said data on administering vaccine on the CDC COVID tracker was not as high as it really is, and they are working to make it more reflective of the truth. There are some data glitches and timing of the way it is working out, as well as getting providers ramped up to enter the data in the system, according to Dr. Satterwhite. While there probably are some doses sitting on shelves that need to be administered, they are not large quantities, she said.
States are doing a good job of ordering and allocating the vaccine immediately when it’s available, she said. The states are also doing a good job of adapting to a huge pandemic, which is still somewhat new, and to changes, she said.
“We’re constantly reevaluating the priority populations,” Dr. Satterwhite said. They have had to make operational decisions within those categories.
All the states have involved experts to look at what the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is recommending and how it applies to their state, customizing the recommendations, she said.
She said communications could probably be improved, including how to reach all populations with their messages that the vaccine is safe, when they are eligible and where do they get it. They also need to continue emphasize the need for measures including mask-wearing and distancing.
States have adopted different operational plans for the vaccine distribution within the broad guidelines from the federal government, she said.
According to Dr. Satterwhite, it’s not a problem if you live in one state and get your vaccination in another because states share data. The federal government purchased the vaccine and it can be administered anywhere, she said. She said that as soon as supplies are more plentiful, there are plans for more widespread distribution from many different sources.
While there have been some differences in way the states are handling vaccine distribution and the pandemic, there are a lot of similarities.
“We are all in this together and we are all going through very similar things,” Dr. Satterwhite said. “We are sharing things and we are trying to make things better for everyone.”
Dr. Satterwhite said the top thing they hear from states and cities is they’d like more vaccine and there are systems in place to administer it, but they don’t have enough supply.
“The federal government continues to distribute and allocate vaccines on a pro rata basis, so it’s based on the population of the state,” Dr. Satterwhite said.
The numbers are proportionally the same across all jurisdictions in the United States, she said.
KU hospital gearing up to give vaccines
Dr. David Wild, vice president of performance improvement at the KU Health System, said they were preparing for giving out COVID-19 vaccines. The hospital had not received any new doses this week, however. The hospital has previously given thousands of doses of vaccine to health care workers.
Dr. Wild said he anticipated that their efforts would start next week, as they partner with Wyandotte and Johnson counties to help distribute vaccines.
“We’re aiming for 10,000 or more doses per week for those patients and the general public, over 65, primarily, here in our facilities,” he said, “if we can get the doses.”
Dr. Nathan Bahr, an infectious disease specialist, said just because the case numbers are starting to decline, it’s not a reason to throw off your mask and celebrate. The Kansas City Chiefs are in a championship game, and he said he hoped people would celebrate responsibly.
Dr. Wild said people can’t return to their former ways, even if they have been vaccinated, but they need to continue to wear masks, socially distance and avoid crowds. It is unclear if those who are vaccinated can be asymptomatic and can transmit the virus, he said. They also are concerned about the effect of the new variants, he said.
“All of those factors very much could be a recipe for its own sort of super spreader event,” Dr. Wild said.
While the reduced numbers of COVID-19 patients in the hospital is comforting, it’s not because there isn’t disease in the community, he said.
“We’re not quite out of the woods yet,” Dr. Wild said.
Dr. Wild said for first 20 days of the month of January, the length of stay for COVID-19 patients at the hospital was down almost half of what it was before, and that was encouraging. He said it was possibly related to a smaller number of patients in the intensive care unit. The number of new active COVID-19 patients was steady, he said, but fewer patients were coming from other hospitals where their ICUs were overwhelmed and they needed to transfer and be stabilized.
COVID-19 case numbers
Dr. Bahr reported stable numbers, with active cases down a little on Thursday. There were 58 active COVID-19 patients hospitalized on Thursday morning, a decrease of seven from Wednesday. There were 19 patients in the intensive care unit, a decrease of five since Wednesday. Ten of the ICU patients were on ventilators, the same as Wednesday. There was one death. Another 60 COVID-19 patients were out of the acute infection phase, up 11 from Wednesday. There were a total of 118 COVID-19 patients, an increase of four since Wednesday.
Wyandotte County reported an increase of 135 COVID-19 cases on Thursday, Jan. 21, according to the Unified Government’s COVID-19 webpage. There were a cumulative 16,384 cases. There was a cumulative total of 219 deaths, no change since Wednesday.
The Mid-America Regional Council’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 142,068 cumulative COVID-19 cases on Thursday. There were 1,733 cumulative deaths, and 134 was the daily average of new hospitalizations.
The state of Kansas reported 263,412 COVID-19 cases statewide on Wednesday, an increase of 3,590 cases since Monday, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. There were an additional 50 deaths reported, with a cumulative total of 3,575.
The Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard on Thursday night reported 24,627,675 total cumulative cases in the United States, with 410,102 total deaths nationwide.
Free COVID-19 testing available Friday
COVID-19 tests will be available Friday, Jan. 22, at the Pierson Community Center parking lot, 1800 S. 55th St., Kansas City, Kansas. Hours are subject to change depending on the weather and other factors. These tests are through WellHealth Management. For more information and to schedule a test, visit www.GoGetTested.com/Kansas.
The Unified Government Health Department’s COVID-19 test site at the former Kmart building at 78th and State will be open on Friday, Jan. 22, at the former Kmart building, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The UG Health Department recently added flu testing to the COVID-19 test at the Kmart building. Only one swab is used for the two tests. The Health Department estimates a two- to three-day wait for COVID-19 results. For the flu, the department only contacts people if it is positive.
Tests from the Health Department are free for those who live or work in Wyandotte County. The tests are nasopharyngeal swab tests. The Health Department no longer uses saliva tests.
The tests are open to asymptomatic people as well as those who have symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19. Check with the UG Health Department’s Facebook page to see if there have been any changes in the schedule. Bring something that shows that you live or work in Wyandotte County, such as a utility bill.
Wyandotte County residents who are interested in getting a COVID-19 vaccine may sign up at https://us.openforms.com/Form/2f2bcc68-3b6a-450b-9007-d39819db6572.
The governor’s news conference is at https://www.facebook.com/GovLauraKelly/videos/3948694321829209.
The KU doctors’ news conference is online at https://www.facebook.com/kuhospital/videos/404815177477937.
The State Finance Council meeting is online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdTrYtJWYIU.
For more information about the testing site at the former Kmart location, visit https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/10092020_newtestingsitewyco.pdf.
The new health order on hours for bars and restaurants is at https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/localhealthofficerorder011221.pdf.
Information about the new health order on extended hours for bars and restaurants is at https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/01112021ugissuesnewbarrestaurantorder.pdf.
The school health order is online at https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/localhealthofficerschoolorder01042021.pdf.
A letter explaining the school health order is online at https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/schoolletter_01052021_english.pdf.
To see information about the UG giving vaccines to health care workers, visit http://wyandottedaily.com/ug-to-start-giving-covid-19-vaccines-to-health-department-and-ems-personnel-next-week/.
The KDHE vaccine report is at https://www.kansasvaccine.gov/DocumentCenter/View/123/Vaccine-Historical-Document-12121?bidId=
Cards and letters of encouragement for caregivers at KU Health System may be sent to Share Joy, care of Patient Relations, 4000 Cambridge St., Mailstop 1021, Kansas City, Kansas, 66160. Emails can be sent to ShareJoy@kumc.edu.
Wyandotte County is under a mandatory mask and social distancing order.
The UG COVID-19 webpage is at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information.
The KDHE’s COVID-19 webpage is at https://www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/.
The KC Region COVID-19 Hub dashboard is at https://marc2.org/covidhub/.
The Wyandotte County page on the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 website is at https://bao.arcgis.com/covid-19/jhu/county/20209.html.