Key workers to have priority in Phase 2 vaccine distribution in Wyandotte County

The Unified Government Health Department on Friday announced that its priority in Phase 2 vaccine distribution in Wyandotte County will be high-contact critical workers.

Three groups were listed in Phase 2 on Thursday by the governor – those aged 65 and older; those in congregate settings; and high-contact critical workers.

Because there isn’t enough vaccine currently for everyone in these groups, the high-contact critical workers will go first in Phase 2 here, according to Health Department officials. This group includes workers who are in a lot of contact with the public and could be at higher risk for being exposed to and spreading the virus, according to the Health Department.

The group includes firefighters, police officers, EMS and Sheriff’s department; teachers and school employees; child care providers; public transit workers; U.S. Postal Service workers; Department of Motor Vehicle workers; grocery, food service and food processing workers. The workers need to be scheduled for their vaccines.

“Phase two of our county’s COVID-19 roll out will expand eligibility to more key segments of workers in Wyandotte County,” said Juliann Van Liew, Health Department director, in a news release. “Unfortunately, vaccines supplies are still very limited, so we do not have enough vaccines to open this up to everyone in Phase 2 at once. This means we’ll be going through Phase 2 in stages. We have made our prioritization decisions based upon who in our community have the most contact with the public, where we have seen the most COVID-19 outbreaks, and who is most at risk of exposure to the virus or serious illness. It will take some time, but as we get more vaccines, everyone in Phase 2 will get the opportunity to get vaccinated. We encourage everyone who is interested in getting the vaccine to go ahead and sign up through our online form.”

Many in the critical workers group are signing up for the vaccine through their employer, according to Janell Friesen, a Health Department spokesman.

Employers, as well as individuals, who are interested in getting the COVID-19 vaccine may fill out the survey on the Health Department’s COVID-19 web site at https://us.openforms.com/Form/f1edcf18-c07b-4efb-ad0d-49ded26c3000. People will be contacted when vaccines are available, and will be given appointments. Currently, the emphasis is on employers filling out forms for their workers in critical areas, but individuals may also sign up.

Speaking on a conference call on Friday with local elected leaders throughout the state, Dr. Allen Greiner, chief medical officer for Wyandotte County, said Wyandotte County started working on a vaccine distribution plan months ago, knowing that vaccinations would be very important here. He said a health equity vaccination team has been helping the county plan for some of the most vulnerable groups in the county.

Phase 2 in Wyandotte County will prioritize first responders, and also teachers will be brought in quickly, he said. Most of the school districts here were open for quite some time, and the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools is likely to open in late winter to spring, he said.

They also are reaching out to meat packing plants, which have had some outbreaks here, as well as to front-line workers at grocery stores and restaurants, he said. Congregate settings are in Phase 2, and may be after the critical workers.

In the later part of Phase 2, older adults and chronically ill persons will be eligible for vaccinations here, he said.

Dr. Greiner said the former Kmart store at 78th and State, converted into a test and vaccination site, has been doing up to 500 vaccinations a day with the capacity to do up to 2,000.

He said additional vaccination sites are planned on the eastern side of the county at the National Guard Armory at 18th and Ridge, and at the western side, at the former Best Buy store at Plaza at the Speedway, at 105th and Parallel Parkway.

Friesen said the two additional sites are not yet in operation and they are still making final plans for them.

It could take more than 20,000 doses of vaccine for the 65 and older group in Wyandotte County. If the Wyandotte County population is 165,429, as estimated by the U.S. Census in 2019, and if the number of persons 65 and over is at 12.6 percent, as stated by the Census, then there would be more than 20,800 persons over age 65 awaiting vaccinations here.

Friesen said a number of people over 65 living in long-term care facilities are being vaccinated through a separate program through CVS and Walgreens, under the Phase 1 federal pharmacy partnership.

Dr. Lee Norman, Kansas secretary of health, said during the Friday conference call that the pharmacies will complete the first dose in the next week or two. CVS has 89 percent of the long-term care facilities vaccine appointments scheduled, and Walgreens has 90 percent of the scheduling completed, he said.

Dr. Norman said vaccines are arriving in Kansas at a “slow trickle.” The state gets its fair share, he said, but it is only 1 percent of the nation’s population, and vaccines are allocated according to population.

Statewide, Kansas is reporting that it has distributed 143,856 doses of the vaccine, according to the state’s vaccine website, kansasvaccine.gov.

According to information from the KDHE, there are 1 million Kansans in Phase 2, but the next weekly supply of vaccine from the federal government totals only 40,000 for the state. The state received 18,525 Pfizer vaccine doses and 17,800 Moderna first doses, plus 17,000 Moderna second doses this week, according to the KDHE.

Wyandotte County received 975 doses of vaccine this week, Friesen said. Although they don’t know for sure, they are anticipating a similar amount of vaccine next week, she added.

The Health Department will be ready to give out more vaccinations when it receives more vaccines. It’s an ongoing challenge, she said, one that is faced throughout the country.

“We have capacity, once we get supply, we will get a lot more people through our vaccination site,” she said.

Neighboring Johnson County posted on Friday on the Johnson County Health Department website that it had received 6,825 vaccine doses on Jan. 21 from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, for Phase 1 and 2 distribution. Johnson County has about five times more population than Wyandotte County.

Johnson County is including people who are age 65 and older in its first tier group for Phase 2 vaccinations, according to its website. It also has school personnel, child care workers, fire, police, grocery store workers, food processing and restaurant workers in its first tier.

Wyandotte County’s vaccination site is open to those who live or work in Wyandotte County, according to the Health Department. People who live in one county and work in another can sign up on lists for both counties, if they want.

The University of Kansas Health System announced on Friday that it also has a sign-up list for vaccine distribution. According to doctors at the KU Health System news conference on Friday, the hospital is beginning to schedule its existing patients who are eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines. A form is on the website at https://covidvaccine.kansashealthsystem.com/.

Some doctors’ offices and pharmacies may be able to offer vaccines later in the process, in Phase 5 with the general public.

Friesen said thousands of people have filled out the Wyandotte County survey for the vaccine. Employers who have eligible workers in Phase 2 should fill out the form now, and other individuals also can fill out the form, she said. They will be notified when vaccine is available, which could take some time at this point, with the limited supply of vaccine, she said.

If people do not have internet access, they can call 3-1-1, and someone will assist them in filling out the form, she said.

Friesen said she wanted to thank people for their patience. It’s going to take a while, as they are waiting for supply, but they are eager to open it up when they can.

“Hang in there, be patient, we know it’s hard to be waiting, so many people who need to get the vaccine,” she said.

COVID-19 case numbers

Dr. Nathan Bahr, infectious disease specialist at the University of Kansas Health System, reported slightly higher numbers of active cases Friday morning. There were 60 active COVID-19 patients hospitalized on Friday morning, an increase of two from Thursday. There were 20 patients in the intensive care unit, an increase of one since Thursday. Eleven ICU patients were on ventilators, an increase of one since Thursday. Another 65 COVID-19 patients were out of the acute infection phase, up five from Thursday. There were a total of 125 COVID-19 patients, an increase of seven since Thursday.

Wyandotte County reported an increase of 54 COVID-19 cases on Friday, Jan. 22, according to the Unified Government’s COVID-19 webpage. There were a cumulative 16,438 cases. There was a cumulative total of 220 deaths, an increase of one since Thursday.

The Mid-America Regional Council’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 142,710 cumulative COVID-19 cases on Friday. There were 1,736 cumulative deaths, and 131 was the daily average of new hospitalizations.

The state of Kansas reported 266,653 COVID-19 cases statewide on Friday, an increase of 3,241 cases since Wednesday, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. There were an additional 23 deaths reported, with a cumulative total of 3,598.

The Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard on Friday night reported 24,818,781 total cumulative cases in the United States, with 414,004 total deaths nationwide.

Free COVID-19 testing available Monday

COVID-19 tests will be available Monday, Jan. 25, 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 Monday, Jan. 25, 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 fill out a survey form at https://us.openforms.com/Form/2f2bcc68-3b6a-450b-9007-d39819db6572.

Testing sites are at https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/pages/what-to-do-if-you-think-you-have-covid-19.

The KU doctors’ news conference is online at https://www.facebook.com/kuhospital/videos/257837345769592.

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.

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