The Unified Government Health Department Thursday night recommended that Wyandotte County residents wear masks indoors in public spaces, but no action was taken.
In a presentation at the 6 p.m. UG Commission meeting, Health Department officials said masking was a solution to the urgent problem of the spread of the Delta variant. They recommended vaccinated and unvaccinated people wearing masks in indoor public places for six weeks.
Cases in Wyandotte County have increased to about 60 per day of the Delta variant, according to Health Department officials. Also, Kansas City area hospitals are filling up.
Dr. Allen Greiner, chief medical officer, said case rates have increased about six times more than what they were in April in Wyandotte County.
No vote was taken Thursday night. Commissioner Christian Ramirez strongly supported the idea of a mask mandate.
The commission also discussed the legalities of a mask mandate. Senate Bill 40, passed by the Legislature, allowed anyone to challenge local COVID ordinances. Parts of the bill were overturned by a judge in Johnson County, with the Kansas attorney general stepping in to defend the law in an appeal.
Commissioner Mike Kane said his feedback was evenly split. He said he would like to see what Johnson County does before proceeding with a mask ordinance for Wyandotte County.
Kansas City, Missouri, came out with a new masking mandate for indoor public spaces earlier this week.
Commissioner Harold Johnson asked if the Health Department thought that cases would rise again in the fall and winter, as they did last year. Dr. Greiner said he really didn’t know. Delta cases in India and Britain saw case loads increase 75 to 80 percent, he said. “The masking helps us immediately, the vaccination helps us 6 to 8 weeks out,” he said. They would like to get the vaccination rate up by the time that cold weather arrives, he said. They don’t know if there will be another variant on the horizon, he added.
Although vaccination rates are still considered low in Wyandotte County, at about 40 percent of the total population, Juliann Van Liew, Health Department director, said that Wyandotte County ranked 102 in vaccinations in April as compared to 28th in the state on Wednesday of this week. It is a testament to how hard they have worked.
The CDC has recommended masks for areas with low vaccination rates.
The No. 1 recommendation, Dr. Greiner said, is still to get vaccinated.
Dr. Greiner said the Health Department has recommended that students wear masks in grades kindergarten through 12 this fall. Also, teachers and staff should mask and all should keep a physical distance of at least 3 feet, he said.
The Health Department has been working with schools on vaccinations, he said.
On Tuesday night, a vaccination clinic at Harmon High School vaccinated more than 200 persons, he said.
The Unified Government Commission will hear a COVID-19 update from the UG Health Department in a special meetng at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 29.
The agenda does not specifically state whether the commission will consider a mask ordinance, following the recent announcement from Kansas City, Missouri, that it will implement a mask ordinance in indoor public places on Aug. 2.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the public will be able to observe the meeting live on YouTube or on UGTV cable television, or through Zoom. The public may view the special session from the lobby of the Municipal Office Building.
To connect to the meeting by Zoom, visit https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87162976138?pwd=bmc4eXFTM3FmdURvUkhyNlhjR0JOQT09.
The passcode is 762776.
Webinar ID: 871 6297 6138.
To connect by telephone, call toll-free, 877-853 5257 or 888-475 4499.
Children’s Mercy Hospital is at capacity, according to doctors.
Dr. Barbara Pahud, director of research for infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy, said Monday morning that more children with COVID need care because those under 12 can’t be vaccinated yet. Also, more children are getting childhood diseases such as RSV, which is usually a disease seen in the winter.
Last year at this time, everyone was in quarantine and wearing masks, which is not happening now. Dr. Pahud said reinstating mask mandates may not be the popular choice, but it is the right choice to save lives, since not enough people are vaccinated.
She urged parents to get their children who are 12 and older vaccinated now so they will have full protection when school starts.
“It’s kind of sad, in my opinion, to see that we of course want to put a priority into the economy, reopening everything, restaurants everywhere you go right now around the city, everything’s open, no masks required,” Dr. Pahud said. “But when we’re talking about children and knowing what’s the right thing for them and how to bring them back to school, we really push back on the masks. But it’s important to keep the kids in school.”
She said kids have become comfortable with masks and warns they can still transmit the virus to each other.
She also says public misinformation about the vaccine is a big problem. The most common myth is it causes infertility. Past vaccines have had clinical trials with only 30,000 to 40,000 people, but she stressed with more than 3 billion doses administered around the world, there is more safety information on this vaccine than any other vaccine ever in the history of the world. She saod you are more likely to be hit by lightning than to have a serious adverse reaction.
She anticipated full approval for the adult vaccine in September and for kids 12 and older by the end of the year. Clinical trials for young children are in progress. Dr. Pahud reminded everyone the mRNA vaccines do not carry a live virus, and therefore are extremely unlikely to have any long-term effects, just the short-term reactions that go away.
Dr. Nathan Bahr, infectious disease physician at the University of Kansas Health System, reminded those getting vaccinated that it isn’t a free pass to hang out in a crowd of 100 without masks before the vaccine takes full effect. He’s frustrated that the guidance of asking those unvaccinated people to wear a mask is not working.
“I’m not worried about a downside to a mask mandate. I’m worried about people dying in the meantime,” Dr. Bahr said.
To those who believe masks are dangerous due to a buildup of CO2, he said emphatically, “That’s not true.” He explained it’s been studied, and the evidence is overwhelming that does not happen.
“If masks were causing CO2 buildup, think about all the healthcare workers that would have been passing out in the operating room in eight-hour surgeries.”
He said right now if you test positive for COVID, it’s safe to say it’s the Delta variant. He said if you or your children feel sick or think you have symptoms, you should get tested, rather than trying to be tough and going to work, putting your coworkers at risk. He said there are no long-term concerns from the vaccines, but there are long term concerns from COVID.
Free vaccines available
Harmon High School will be the site of a community vaccination event from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 27, at 2400 Steele Road.
Vaccines will be available, free for those 12 and older. There also will be a backpack giveaway, free food boxes, mobile dental truck, meal tickets for newly vaccinated participants and free ice cream, as well as music provided. In addition there will be prizes for teens who get the vaccine. Those who get a vaccine can sign up to win one of five $100 Visa gift cards, and two grand prize winners will get a $500 Visa gift card, if more than 75 people get vaccinated. Masks will be required at the event. The event is sponsored by the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools.
Free COVID-19 vaccines will be available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday at the Kmart vaccination site, 7836 State Ave., Kansas City, Kansas. Vaccines are free for people ages 12 and older. There are gifts available, as supplies last.
The Unified Government Health Department has announced there will be free COVID-19 vaccinations at a Sporting KC home match at 7:30 p.m. July 31. Vaccines will be available for ticketholders attending the games, who are 12 and older. People who get vaccinated will receive a free Sporting KC scarf.
For more information on the Unified Government Health Department’s vaccine schedule, see WycoVaccines.org.
Mobile vaccines can still be requested online at WycoVaccines.org or by calling 3-1-1 (913-573-5311).
Other sites available for vaccinations
Free vaccinations at KU Health System are open to the public. Current patients may use MyChart to make an appointment. Others may call 913-588-1227 or visit kansashealthsystem.com/vaccine to make an appointment to get vaccinated. KU Health System currently is vaccinating residents of Kansas and Missouri who are 12 or older, by appointment only. Those under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian throughout the appointment.
There are also pharmacies giving free COVID-19 vaccinations in Wyandotte County by appointment, when available. These include Price Chopper and Hen House pharmacies, which are now also accepting walk-in vaccinations or appointments, and are starting vaccinations for age 12 and up at those pharmacies that are giving Pfizer vaccine (see https://www.ballsfoodspharmacy.com/).
CVS has announced walk-in appointments for COVID-19 vaccine at some of its stores. Those interested in getting a vaccination at a CVS pharmacy are asked to visit a CVS website in order to make sure there is vaccine available. The website is at www.cvs.com/. Walgreens and Walmart also were listed on www.vaccines.gov as giving vaccinations.
Other pharmacies and sites giving vaccines are listed at www.vaccines.gov. The website also tells whether vaccines are in stock at the locations.
Case numbers reported
Steady numbers in COVID-19 patients were reported Monday morning at the University of Kansas Health System. There were 34 active COVID-19 patients on Monday morning, an increase of one from Friday, according to Dr. Nathan Bahr, infectious disease doctor. Sixteen patients were in the intensive care unit, an increase of four since Friday. Nine were on ventilators, an increase of two. Another 22 patients were hospitalized because of COVID-19 but were out of the acute infection phase, no change. There were 56 total COVID patients, the same number as Friday.
Wyandotte County reported a cumulative 19,838 cases on Monday, an increase of 112 since Friday, according to the Unified Government Health Department’s COVID-19 webpage. There was a cumulative total of 306 deaths reported, an increase of four since Friday. On Wednesday, July 21, the Unified Government Health Department reported that 38.1 percent of Wyandotte County residents had received at least one dose of vaccine. Those completing their vaccinations totaled about 33 percent. The percentage of Wyandotte County residents who were age 12 and older who had received at least one dose was 46.9 percent.
The Mid-America Regional Council’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 171,327 cumulative COVID-19 cases on Monday in the Kansas City region. The daily average of new hospitalizations was 91.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported 328,755 cumulative COVID-19 cases in Kansas on Monday, July 26, an increase of 1,488 since Friday, July 23. There was a total of 5,243 cumulative deaths reported statewide, an increase of four since July 23.
The KDHE reported 62,244 cumulative COVID-19 cases in Johnson County on July 26, an increase of 257 since July 23. Leavenworth County had 7757 cases, an increase of 82 since July 23. Sedgwick County (the Wichita area) reported 59,410 cases, an increase of 210 since July 23.
The Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard on Monday night reported 34,533,058 COVID-19 cases in the United States, with 610,951 total deaths reported nationwide. There were 15,711 new cases nationwide.
Countries with new cases rising were India, 39,361; Indonesia, 38,679; United Kingdom, 28,937; Iran, 27,146; and U.S, 15,711, according to Johns Hopkins information.
Vaccine doses reported administered in the United States Monday, 778,996. Fifty percent of the U.S. population was fully vaccinated.
Vaccines administered: Florida, 138.200; Texas, 132,230; California, 104,730; New York, 23,506; and Pennsylvania, 22,500.
Global vaccination progress: Japan, 3.756 million; India, 2.036 million; Mexico, 978,300; U.S., 779,000; and Turkey, 931,600.
Free testing available
Free COVID-19 testing is available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at the UG Health Department’s central location, the former Kmart, 7836 State Ave., Kansas City, Kansas. Free gift cards are available to those who get a test, while supplies last.
Besides Health Department sites, COVID-19 testing is available at several locations in Wyandotte County.