Small groups creating ways to fight COVID-19

Small groups are currently getting together throughout Kansas and thinking up small projects they can work on to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Beat the Virus Campaign is being led by the Kansas Leadership Center, which is trying to hold 1,000 virtual community meetings in Kansas by Dec. 31.

So far, more than 460 meetings have been completed, and the organization still would like to try to get to 1,000 meetings by Dec. 31.

According to Ed O’Malley, president and CEO of the Kansas Leadership Center, the goal is to mobilize communities to mount a collective challenge to COVID-19. He spoke during the University of Kansas Health System’s Thursday morning news conference.

In hour-long meetings, small groups, usually from the same community, meet to discuss actions they could take to slow the spread of the virus, according to O’Malley.

Claudia Amaro, a meeting facilitator, said the groups have had lots of wonderful conversations. Some have decided, for example, to hold a coolest mask contest on social media, which promotes mask usage, she said.

She also facilitates Spanish-language meetings, as well as English-language meetings, and said some Latino community members are most concerned about language barriers.

One group was concerned about senior citizens in families, and decided to make gift bags for seniors they know, especially seniors who have grandchildren visiting them. The bag contained a button saying “You protect me, I protect you” in Spanish, and also a small gift and a mask so they felt protected and cared for, she said.

She said it was amazing that people are coming together and owning the responsibility in a common purpose of stopping the virus.

While there have been a few anti-maskers or anti-vaxxers in the Zoom meetings, Amaro said so far everyone has been respectful. They focus on a solution and actions individuals can take in their communities. For those who want to discuss the facts about the virus, she just provides resources for them to look up.

O’Malley said the secret, or key to holding these meetings is about giving people something they can be for, not against. If people in the group think masks won’t work in their community, the facilitator can ask what idea can they get behind, he said.

Someone then may suggest holding a virtual service at a church instead of one in person, he said.

Some of the ideas that came out of these meetings included a coffee shop in Chapman, Kansas, that will use outdoor space with a fire pit and space heaters so teens will have a place to socialize during winter. That idea was to provide an alternative for teens who might otherwise gather together indoors.

Another idea was to provide quarantine kits for college students, hoping to make quarantines a little more doable to slow the spread of the virus, he said.

“Action projects are designed to let people who know one another help influence one another to do the right thing,” he said.

Anyone who wants to hold a small virtual group meeting may visit the website,

In other discussion, the KU doctors said it will still be necessary for everyone to wear a mask, even if they get a COVID-19 vaccine.

It will probably be necessary to wear a mask through several months, at least until October, according to Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at KU Health System.

Although there has been speculation by some that there could be reduced transmission from the Moderna vaccine, people should still wear a mask, not meet in large groups and practice good hygiene, even after they get a vaccine, according to Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control.

The mask protects others around you and gives you some protection as well, according to Dr. Stites. There is a potential those who get the vaccine still might be able to spread it, he said.

KU Health System reported 82 acute COVID-19 infections on Thursday morning, an increase from 76 on Wednesday, with 37 patients in the intensive care unit and 24 on ventilators, according to Dr. Hawkinson. There were 75 other COVID-19 patients in the recovery phase, for total of 157 COVID-19 patients.

HaysMed in Hays, Kansas, reported 27 total COVID-19 inpatients, an increase of one since Wednesday, with 22 active patients and five in recovery.

The hospital numbers seem to be stabilizing, and the doctors said the number of daily new cases has continued to decline in the Greater Kansas City area, with less than 1,000 a day currently.

Case numbers

Wyandotte County reported a cumulative 12,926 COVID-19 cases on Thursday, an increase of 79 since Wednesday. There were no additional deaths reported, with the cumulative total at 187.

The Mid-America Regional Council Kansas City Region COVID-19 data hub reported an additional 719 cases in the nine-county Kansas City region on Thursday, for a cumulative total of 109,797. There were a cumulative 1,298 deaths reported. The average number of new hospitalizations was 172, down from Wednesday.

Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 17,198,633 COVID-19 cases in the United States on Thursday, and 310,699 cumulative deaths.

Free COVID-19 testing available Friday

Free COVID-19 testing is available from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at South Park Recreation Center, 246 Shadyside Ave., Bonner Springs, Kansas.

The Unified Government Health Department has moved its COVID-19 testing from the 6th and Ann location to the former Kmart at 78th and State Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas. The hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Tests 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 now 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.

Additional testing sites are at

The KU doctors’ news conference is online at

The Kansas Beats the Virus website is at

For more information about the testing site at the former Kmart location, visit

To see information about the UG giving vaccines to health care workers next week, visit

The KDHE vaccine report 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. Also, the Wyandotte County health order with a limit of 10 persons to a gathering, and a closing time of 10 p.m. for restaurants and bars, with other new restrictions, is at

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 CDC’s COVID-19 webpage is at