UG Health Department receives preliminary approval for $4.9 million for vaccination efforts

The Unified Government Health Department received preliminary approval on Monday night for $4.9 million.

The UG’s Economic Development and Finance Committee voted unanimously to approve the budget revision for authorization for an additional $4.9 million.

The funds will go to the UG’s health levy fund for costs associated with the Wyandotte County COVID-19 vaccination effort, according to the Health Department.

Health Department officials said at the committee meeting that if federal funding becomes available, part of the funds could be transferred back to the city’s general fund.

A formal resolution would be included as part of the amended 2021 and proposed 2022 budget’s second public hearng scheduled for July 2021.

According to Kathleen von Achen, UG chief financial officer, the UG received a total of $7.5 million for its pandemic reimbursements from previous CARES Act federal funding.

Juliann Van Liew, UG Health Department director, said the Health Department has been successful in several aspects, including early testing, early creation of the Health Equity Task Force, providing for social needs of those who were quarantining, and early vaccine preparation, but its successes would not be possible without financial support.

Wesley McKain, who has been working with the financial side of the COVID-19 response at the Health Department, described the expenses, including the cost of running two vaccination sites and the staff necessary for them. He added a lot of volunteers are currently helping. A vaccination third site should open in the next week and a half, he said.

He said it was likely the Health Department will receive more grants in the future. He is hoping the department receives about $1 million from the Kansas ELC program for contact tracing and testing. They also hope to receive a grant, perhaps $25 million, from federal vaccination funding that Kansas is receiving, he said.

McKain said he has learned that Federal Emergency Management Act (FEMA) funds could be available with funding for vaccine communications, vaccine facilities and contract labor, the three largest expense categories for the COVID-19 effort at the Health Department. He said the Health Department is planning to work aggressively on that grant.

According to McKain, federal funding would be used first whenever possible. County dollars would only be used if federal funding was not available, which is the case now, or if a needed expense is not eligible for funding, he said.

He said he does not think the UG will use the $4.9 million in local funds this year, and that there would be federal funds available later.

Currently, it’s an issue of timing, with costs being incurred now and responses happening now, McKain told the committee. CARES ACT dollars were over around March 1, he said. County dollars they’re using now could potentially be reimbursed through FEMA or other federal funds, according to McKain. They have a cash flow problem now, he added.

Von Achen said if federal dollars become available, a portion of the funds could be transferred back to the city general fund.

KU Health System working to help those over 65 get their vaccines

At the Monday morning news conference of the University of Kansas Health System, Jana Jackson, call center manager at the health system, described how she and her team were working to contact their patients over 65 to help them schedule their vaccinations.

About 10 people in the call center are contacting their patients over 65 to help them get through the vaccination process. Some of people they help are not computer savvy, or need help with certain programs or applications.

Jackson said they have made about 2,100 calls, or about 100 a day. The staff will help people through technical problems in signing up for the vaccines, according to Jackson. People who have questions or need help scheduling may call 913-588-1227.

KU Health System is helping with vaccinations through a cooperative program with the Johnson County Health Department. They also can help people work through technical scheduling problems at other vaccination programs.

Also helping with getting those over 65 some help with technology and scheduling has been the Mid-America Regional Council. Dr. James Stowe, director of aging and adult services with Mid-America Regional Council, said they have been helping people on the Missouri side to register to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Their goal is to help older people stay in their homes as long as possible, he added.

The KU doctors discussed lessons that had been learned from the pandemic, now that it is around a year old.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control, said they learned that everything starts from the top, and a good coordinated effort is necessary at the top. They also need a unified message, he said.

They also need a good public health infrastructure from the national to the state and local health departments. Every community in the state has to work on its infrastructure for public health, Dr. Hawkinson said.

They also have learned they could get a vaccine in 12 months. Another lesson learned was how important the schools are and how they had a difficult time getting back in person, he said.

Moving forward, there will probably be changes in providing resources for the infrastructure for public health, he believes.

Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at KU Health, said they learned it’s not about how much glitter and gain you have, it’s about how much game you have. The virus doesn’t care how much money you have, he said.

What they learned is that if they meet each other with compassion and grace, as opposed to glitter and fame, that they can control the spread of the greatest plague the world has seen in recent history, he said.

“If we take care of each other we all can win,” he said. “The more we care about ourselves, the more failure we get.”

COVID-19 case numbers reported

The total number of COVID-19 active and recovering COVID-19 patients at the University of Kansas Health System was 48 on Monday, a decrease of seven from Friday, according to Dr. Hawkinson. There were 16 active COVID-19 patients in the hospital, a decrease of seven from Friday. Five of those patients were in the intensive care unit, a decrease of five from Friday. Two of those were on ventilators, the same as Friday. There were another 32 patients hospitalized because of COVID-19 who were out of the acute phase, the same as Friday. Doctors said they have not seen numbers this low since last summer. The improvement is due to better behavior, including wearing masks, distancing and staying home when sick.

Wyandotte County reported an increase of eight COVID-19 case on Monday, March1, for a cumulative 17,686 cases. There was a cumulative total of 269 deaths reported, no change since Sunday.

The Mid-America Regional Council’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 154,806 cumulative COVID-19 cases on Monday. The daily average of new hospitalizations was 94. Cumulative deaths in the nine-county area were 2,100. MARC also reported a delay in data verification from one of the nine counties, affecting data for cases, deaths and tests, but not for hospitalizations.

The state of Kansas reported 294,302 cumulative COVID-19 cases on Monday, March 1, an increase of 639 cases since Friday. There were a total cumulative 4,743 deaths, an increase of eight deaths since Friday, according to KDHE figures.

The Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard on Monday night reported 28,659,784 cases in the United States, with 514,333 total deaths nationwide.

COVID-19 tests scheduled Tuesday

The Pierson Community Center COVID-19 testing site at 831 S. 55th is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 2. Tests are through WellHealth. Appointments are required, check with the website,, for available appointment times.

Unified Government COVID-19 testing and vaccine sites are scheduled to be open on Tuesday. Those seeking vaccinations need to have an appointment, while those seeking COVID-19 testing may walk in and get a test kit.

The Unified Government Health Department’s COVID-19 test site at the former Kmart building at 78th and State will be open Tuesday, March 2, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Appointments are not needed for COVID-19 tests there on Tuesday. There is also another UG Health Department location for COVID-19 testing at the former Best Buy store, 10500 Parallel Parkway. More information is at To see if there is any change to the schedule, visit

The Health Department is offering saliva COVID-19 tests to the public. Tests from the Health Department are free for those who live or work in Wyandotte County.

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 the UG Health Department at Residents will be contacted to make an appointment when vaccine becomes available. The Health Department currently is vaccinating high-contact critical workers, as well as residents over 65. Also, residents who don’t have the internet may call 3-1-1 to give their information and register to get a vaccine.

Testing sites are at

Saliva testing is now offered at the UG Health Department. For more information, visit

The UG Committee meeting is at

The KU doctors’ news conference is at

The University of Kansas Health System COVID-19 update page is at

A weekly vaccine report for the state of Kansas is at

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

Wyandotte County is under a mandatory mask and social distancing order.

The UG COVID-19 webpage is at

The KDHE’s COVID-19 webpage is at

The KC Region COVID-19 Hub dashboard is at

The Wyandotte County page on the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 website is at

The Johns Hopkins Data in Motion, a presentation on critical COVID-19 data in the past 24 hours, is at

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