The Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools Board of Education discussed three options for employee COVID vaccination and testing at a board meeting Tuesday night.
No decision was made on requiring employee vaccinations or testing at this time. The options are examples of possible policies, according to administrators.
The first option presented Tuesday night was to require all eligible staff to get vaccinated on or before Nov. 19. Those who do not have proof on file with the district on or before Nov. 19 would be required to take weekly COVID tests. Under the first option, those who provide proof of COVID vaccination would receive five additional sick leave days for the 2021-2022 school year.
Option 2 was similar to the first, except it “highly encourages,” not requires, eligible staff to get vaccinated on or before Nov. 19. Weekly testing would be required of those who do not have vaccinations on file. All staff who provide proof of vaccination would get five additional sick leave days for the 2021-2022 school year.
The third option also would “highly encourage” staff to get vaccinated on or before Nov. 19. Those without proof of full vaccination on file by Nov. 19 would be required to participate in weekly COVID testing. If a staff member tests positive for COVID and has provided proof of vaccination prior to testing positive, the staff member would not have to use personal sick leave time under the third option.
According to Stephen Linkous, the district’s chief of staff, it would take about 45 days to begin the processes for this policy. Up to three health data specialists would be hired to track students and staff who would test at district sites, he said.
Linkous said an employee survey was taken that showed 1,902 out of 2,128 persons who responded were fully vaccinated, or 89 percent of those who took the survey. About 50 percent of the employees filled out the survey.
Linkous estimated that there would probably be a minimum of about 1,000 persons who would test weekly if a policy was adopted. The district would need staff members specifically to test employees, he said.
If the vaccination policy is adopted, the district would also begin weekly surveillance testing for athletes, as they do not wear masks while actively participating in sports, he said. Then the number of persons tested each week might be up to 2,000.
The benefits of expanded testing, according to Linkous, include that higher numbers of vaccinated staff and students would lead to a reduction in variants; would lead to fewer quarantines and less transmission; would help unvaccinated persons to know if they are COVID positive; would allow employees who are unable to be vaccinated to continue employment; and those who were asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic would be identified.
The challenges of expanded testing are that initial numbers of staff and students would be quarantined, with an initial spike followed by a downward trend; a health testing coordinator would have to lead on-site testing, if that is approved; and they would have to coordinate pickup times of test kits at participating sites.
Board member Wanda Paige said the proposed policies need to go out to all employees, and she had heard from some who hadn’t seen them, or had questions.
Dr. Anna Stubblefield, superintendent, said the policies are examples of what other districts are looking at. She said they are subject to change by the board. The current process at the KCK district is that those who are quarantined or test positive, if it is work-related, are not charged to disability leave. Other districts do not necessarily incentivize through additional sick leave days, or do not all allow staff to be unvaccinated.
The board asked about how the five days of leave would work in different situations.
Dr. Stacy Yeager, a board member, said her biggest concern would be that it might be another barrier to hiring. Employees who did not like the policy could walk to another district, according to Dr. Yeager.
Dr. Stubblefield said these examples did not require vaccinations, but gave the option of vaccination or testing. The Kansas City, Missouri, district has a policy requiring vaccinations or testing, according to Linkous.
Other districts are starting to engage in the conversation about vaccinations, Dr. Stubblefield said. Some of them are waiting to see guidelines following the President’s announcement.
Board Vice President Yolanda Clark said last year, some of the staff members were not able to take their vacation time. If the district gives additional days because of vaccinations, then it should ensure the staff is able to use it, she said.
In answer to a question from Dr. Valdenia Winn, board member, Linkous said a little over 50 percent of the district’s 4,100 employees responded to the survey. He will be doing some more research with the surveys, he said. More than 60 percent of the responses were from certified staff. He will meet with directors to see if there is another mechanism to engage employees to get more data, he said.
For the week ending Sept. 3, the school district had 283 students and 27 staff members quarantined, with 78 confirmed student cases and 15 confirmed staff cases, according to the district’s COVID dashboard.
The district currently requires masking and distancing, and those measures would continue if a new vaccination policy were adopted, according to Linkous.
The employees of Head Start, a federally funded program, are mandated by the President to be vaccinated. The President also is asking states to require vaccinations for school employees, Linkous said.
The school district’s COVID dashboard has figures from the week ending Sept. 3, when there were 283 students quarantined and 27 staff quarantined. There were 78 confirmed student cases and 15 confirmed staff cases then. However, this information should be updated later on Wednesday, Sept. 15, according to Linkous.
Vaccines, tests available
The former Kmart building at 7836 State Ave., a Unified Government Health Department vaccination site, will be open for testing from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and for free COVID-19 vaccinations from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Walk-ins are accepted. There are incentives being offered for Wyandotte County residents, while supplies last. See WycoVaccines.org.
COVID-19 testing from WellHealth will be available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15, at the Kansas National Guard Armory, 100 S. 20th. The site is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. To make an appointment, visit https://www.gogettested.com/kansas.
Mobile vaccines can be requested online at WycoVaccines.org or by calling 3-1-1 (913-573-5311). For more information on the Unified Government Health Department’s vaccine schedule, see WycoVaccines.org.
COVID-19 vaccines and tests are available at other locations in Wyandotte County, including some pharmacies. For locations and availability, visit www.vaccines.gov.
Free vaccinations at KU Health System are open to the public, and appointments are required. 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.
Case numbers reported
The University of Kansas Health System reported 79 total COVID-19 patients on Tuesday, Sept. 14, a decrease of three since Monday, according to Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control. Thirty-eight patients with the active virus were inpatients on Tuesday, a decrease of two since Monday. Seven of the 38 were vaccinated. There have been eight deaths from COVID since last Saturday, including two on Monday. There was a total of 30 deaths so far in September, compared to 17 for September of last year. Thirteen patients were in the intensive care unit, no change since Monday. Seven patients were on ventilators, a decrease of one since Monday. Forty-one other patients were still hospitalized from COVID, but were out of the acute infection phase, a decrease of one since Monday.
Wyandotte County reported a cumulative 23,316 cases on Tuesday, Sept. 14, an increase of 66 cases since Monday, Sept. 13, according to the Unified Government Health Department’s COVID-19 webpage. There were a cumulative total of 345 deaths on Monday, an increase of three from Monday.
On Wednesday, Sept. 8, the Unified Government Health Department reported that 47.37 percent of Wyandotte County residents had received at least one dose of vaccine. Those completing their vaccinations totaled about 40.52 percent.
The percentage of Wyandotte County residents who were age 12 and older who had received at least one dose was 58.3 percent.
The Mid-America Regional Council reported 207,657 cases on Tuesday in Greater Kansas City, a nine-county area. There were a total of 2,800 deaths. The daily average of new hospitalizations was 125.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported 390,031 cumulative COVID-19 cases in Kansas on Monday, Sept. 13, an increase of 2,879 since Friday, Sept. 10. There was a total of 5,773 cumulative deaths reported statewide, an increase of seven since Sept. 10.
The KDHE reported 72,152 cumulative COVID-19 cases in Johnson County on Sept. 13, an increase of 413 since Sept. 10. Leavenworth County had 9,572 cases on Sept. 13, an increase of seven since Sept. 10. Sedgwick County (the Wichita area) reported 71,570 cases on Sept. 13, an increase of 738 since Sept. 10.
On Monday, the KHDE reported 11,022 cumulative cases in Douglas County (the Lawrence area), an increase of 69 since Sept. 10. Riley County (the Manhattan area) had 7,334 cumulative cases, an increase of 30 since Sept. 10. Shawnee County (the Topeka area) had 23,380 cumulative cases, an increase of 162 cases since Sept. 10.
On Monday night, there were a cumulative 41,364,566 COVID-19 cases in the United States, with a cumulative 663,923 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
Visit gogettested.com/Kansas and https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/pages/what-to-do-if-you-think-you-have-covid-19 for more testing sites.
Wyandotte County residents may contact the Health Department at wycohelp.org to sign up for a test to be delivered to their home.
For more details about free COVID-19 testing offered by the UG Health Department, visit https://www.facebook.com/UGHealthDept or call 3-1-1.
To view details about the extension of the mask order in KCK until Nov. 18, visit https://www.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/ug_extendsmaskmandate_nr_09102021.pdf.
To view the resolution extending the mask order, visit https://www.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/r-62-21.pdf.