A downward trend in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Kansas continued on Monday, according to the Kansas secretary of health.
Dr. Lee Norman, Kansas health secretary, said the increase in cases from Friday to Monday was 883 on Monday, the lowest it has been since November. Dr. Norman made his remarks to the Kansas House Social Services Budget Committee on Monday (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRcvwXQhTM8).
The state’s positivity rate was 15 to 16 percent and now is around 5 percent, he said, showing there has been an effect on disease spread.
He noted the COVID-19 pandemic now has been going on about a year.
“This has been an immensely complicated enterprise,” Dr. Norman told the committee. “This has been many, many waves of a crisis, not just one wave. It’s been a story of shortages.”
They have been through personal protective equipment shortages, testing platform shortages, contact tracer shortages, hospital capacity shortages, staffing shortages, therapeutics shortages, and managed to do well with all those things, and those are no longer in short supply, he said.
There’s now a shortage of vaccines, but hundreds of thousands of doses have been given to residents in Kansas, he said. As of Monday, there were 509,332 doses reported given in Kansas, with more than 645,000 delivered to Kansas, he said. More than 11 percent of the population has been vaccinated now, he added.
Dr. Norman said one in 10 Kansans actually have had COVID-19. He said he doesn’t believe immunity from getting COVID-19 willl be very durable or lasting, and those who have had the disease should get vaccinated.
He said the state has had some data issues concerning reporting of vaccinations, and probably more than 79 percent of the vaccine the state has received have been given.
He said they have safe vaccines, that have a very good safety profile.
The state didn’t get vaccine last week because of the weather causing delays, he added.
Dr. Norman said the state’s vaccine website, kansasvaccine.gov, has a Find My Vaccine feature that can tell residents the closest vaccination sites.
The CDC also has a national Vaccine Finder, that went online for the public on Monday, he said.
On the state’s vaccine website, 156 locations are listed, and 153 have currently received vaccine, he said.
After people get vaccinated, they need to continue wearing masks and socially distancing, he said. The vaccination may prevent people from getting serious illness, but it may not prevent them from spreading it if they have been exposed to someone, he said.
He said if he is asked when people can return to normal life, he says once 85 to 90 percent of the people have either been ill with COVID-19 or received the vaccination, dn the number of cases have dropped dramatically, then they can return to a normal life.
He said they will see some relaxation on some of the things that have been restricted, but for now, people need to keep doing public health measures.
Dr. Norman said Kansas is doing a workaround for the technical reporting systems currently, to make sure the correct number of vaccines administered are reported.
He said they are asking each health department every day the amount of vaccine they have and whether it’s getting administered. Some of the gap is normal, he added. If a count got 6,000 doses yesterday it’s normal for it to be on hand today, until it is distributed. They don’t want people holding on to it for too long, he added.
At long-term care facilities, 88 percent of the residents ave reeived a first dose. About 68 percent of the staff have been vaccinated.
Besides the long-term care facilities on the CMS list, there were other facilities that were not licensed, he said. The federal vaccines went directly to long-term care facilities, but the state had to vaccinate those facilities that were not on the list.
The federal retail pharmacy partnership started a few weeks ago, he said, with the federal government sending vaccine directly to some pharmacies. More providers will be added as the vaccine supply increases, according to Dr. Norman.
He said he doesn’t think the rollout in Kansas has been slow. They are in the process of fixing the reporting of it, but they haven’t wasted it, he said.
Dr. Norman said the KDHE has a hotline and phone bank to answer questions. Certain populations, including some older persons, do not do as well with websites but usually can do well with telephone lines, he said. The phone number is 866-534-3463. There is also an email link on the KDHE website.
According to the KDHE, a vulnerability index is built into the decision-making on how much vaccines areas receive. Wyandotte County is one of the counties with a higher social vulnerability index.
Asked about shifting more of the vaccine distribution to the highly populated counties, which have higher density, Dr. Norman said there is no single distribution strategy that covers everyone well.
He said the state has mobile trailers to be used for vaccinations to bring the vaccine to the people, where they are. He said one of the populations is older people, who are independently living, but are not very mobile or may not have strong support.
The bottom line is it’s going to take a lot of customization to not have anybody forgotten, and that’s the bottom line, not to have anybody forgotten, he said.
It has been left up to the counties to decide which groups in a particular phase will go first, according to KDHE officials. Effective Monday, the retail pharmacy program was expanded to teachers., as well as essential workers and 65 and above.
At the Monday morning University of Kansas Health System news conference, Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at KU Health System, said the nation reached a “somber milestone” of 500,000 deaths from COVID-19. He said that’s more than the number of deaths in World War I, World War II and the Vietnam war combined. He noted the flu pandemic of a hundred years ago caused 675,000 deaths, but since this pandemic is not over, it’s still possible to reach that mark.
Also at the news conference, Dr. Kelsey Larson, breast surgeon oncologist, described the intraoperative radiation treatment program, in which patients receive a single dose of radiation at the same time as their lumpectomy surgery, and don’t have to come back for multiple visits over weeks. The KU Cancer Center was the first in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma to offer this therapy for patients 45 and older with early stage breast cancer, she said.
Dr. Larson noted there had been a 50 percent reduction in breast cancer diagnoses since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but she didn’t’ believe cancer had dropped that much. She encouraged women to get mammograms without any delays, and she said procedures were safe.
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 72 on Monday, same as Friday, according to Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control. There were 36 active COVID-19 patients in the hospital, a decrease of two from Friday. Eleven of those patients were in the intensive care unit, an increase of one since Friday. Six of those were on ventilators, an increase of two since Friday. There were another 36 patients hospitalized because of COVID-19 who were out of the acute phase, an increase of two since Friday.
Wyandotte County reported an increase of eight COVID-19 cases on Monday, Feb. 22, according to the Unified Government’s COVID-19 webpage. There were a cumulative 17,494 cases. There was a cumulative total of 263 deaths reported, the same as Sunday.
The Mid-America Regional Council’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 153,636 cumulative COVID-19 cases on Monday. The daily average of new hospitalizations was 86. 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 291,715 COVID-19 cases statewide on Monday, an increase of 883 cases since Friday, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. There were an additional 29 deaths reported, with a cumulative total of 4,643.
COVID-19 deaths in the United States surpassed a half-million on Monday. The Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard on Monday night reported 28,188,296 cases in the United States, with 500,236 total deaths nationwide.
COVID-19 tests scheduled Tuesday
Free COVID-19 tests are available from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23, at All Saints parish, 811 Vermont Ave., Kansas City, Kansas. Appointments are not needed. There will be free groceries, while supplies last, for those who get a COVID-19 test. For information, see https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/pages/what-to-do-if-you-think-you-have-covid-19.
The Pierson Community Center COVID-19 testing site at 831 S. 55th is open at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23, according to the www.gogettested.com/Kansas website. Appointments are required, and should be made through the website.
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, Feb. 23, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Appointments are not needed for COVID-19 tests there on Tuesday. To see if there is any change to the schedule, visit https://www.facebook.com/UGHealthDept.
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 https://us.openforms.com/Form/2f2bcc68-3b6a-450b-9007-d39819db6572. 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.
Saliva testing is now offered at the UG Health Department. For more information, visit https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/02042021-ugphd-saliva-testing-available.pdf.
The KU doctors’ news conference is online at https://www.facebook.com/kuhospital/videos/183320556529894.
The University of Kansas Health System COVID-19 update page is at https://www.kansashealthsystem.com/patient-visitor/covid19-update.
For more information about how Wyandotte County residents over 85 can get a vaccine at the Health Department site, visit https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/02032021_wycovaccinationsage85.pdf.
Vaccine data for the state of Kansas is at https://www.kansasvaccine.gov/158/Data.
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.
The Johns Hopkins Data in Motion, a presentation on critical COVID-19 data in the past 24 hours, is at https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/covid-19-daily-video.