A Unified Government plan that would give $400 each to employees who are vaccinated and also require COVID testing for employees who are unvaccinated moved forward in a committee meeting Monday night.
The plan would set aside $1 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for vaccine rewards for UG employees. Besides the $400 each, employees could receive an additional $100 when they receive a COVID booster shot. Employees could receive the $400 even if they have already been vaccinated.
Out of 2,300 employees, the UG has 1,269 employees who have currently updated their vaccination certification, said Renee Ramirez, director of human resources for the UG. That leaves over 1,000 who are unknown.
Those employees who do not show proof of being fully vaccinated would have to undergo weekly COVID testing, under the plan. The testing would start Dec. 1, under the plan.
Ramirez said the plan would cover full-time, part-time, temporary seasonal, temporary employees placed at the UG, any contractors and any volunteers.
Refusal to take the tests, which would be self-administered saliva tests, would be cause for disciplinary actions, according to UG officials. The cost of the test was estimated at about $65 per test, and the costs are reimbursable through Dec. 31, according to the UG. The plan also contained some provisions that do not allow unvaccinated employees who test positive for COVID to have the same sort of COVID leave that is granted to other employees.
Misty Brown, the UG’s chief legal counsel, said a copy of the proposed mitigation plan and a letter of understanding were sent to the unions representing employees at the UG.
Three unions have signed and returned the letters, while some supported the incentive but opposed any mandatory testing, she said.
Commissioner Mike Kane said the incentives for getting vaccinated are good, but the mandatory testing is not. He also faulted the UG on how it is handling this issue.
“We need to negotiate this with the unions, not dictate it to them,” Commissioner Kane said.
He said the UG should have gone to the unions and talked with them about it, and together come up with a plan.
Commissioner Christian Ramirez asked where the remainder of the $1 million allocation from ARPA would go, if not all of the employees chose to get the shots.
Brown said any funds not allocated for this project would come back to the UG to allocate in another way.
Ramirez said that needed to be included in the resolution.
Alan Howze, assistant county administrator, said part of the goal is protecting safety and health of the workforce and public. They are trying to use the incentives to encourage vaccinations, and bring up the number of employees who are vaccinated, he said.
There are probably more than the 1,269 employees who have reported they are vaccinated, and they probably have not submitted their paperwork yet, he said. The more employees who get vaccinated, the safer they, their families, workers and the public will be, he said.
Vaccinations also reduce liability on the UG’s health plan, he said. As a self-insured employer, any costs of COVID treatment are borne by the entire work force, he said. There are a number of reasons to get as many people in the work force vaccinated as soon as possible, he added.
He said Johnson County has been doing testing for nonvaccinated employees on a weekly basis during the month of September, and Jackson County is moving to it at the end of the month. The federal government’s plan to test employees also is moving forward, he said.
Answering a question from Commissioner Jane Philbrook, Brown said the UG Commission could adopt the letters of understanding of the three unions, and later come back with the rest. Philbrook had suggested continuing to negotiate with the other unions on the issue. The UG also could decide to offer incentives without mandatory testing, she added, as one of the options.
Commissioner Kane said this isn’t just an issue at the UG, it is an issue across the United States.
He said he wants everyone to get the shots, but he wanted the UG to negotiate with the unions on it. He said a man quit recently after hearing that testing would be mandated.
Commissioner Ramirez said the plan needs to be separated into two parts, one for workplace safety, and the other for bargaining with the unions.
Commissioner Brian McKiernan supported moving forward with the plan, and said they could be flexible on the Nov. 30 deadline. He supports the incentives, he added.
However, he said they should not have a fractured approach to testing. Either everyone should do it or no one should do it, he said.
Commissioner Melissa Bynum, the temporary chair of the Administration and Human Services Committee, agreed it should move forward to the full commission for more discussion. The primary role has always been keeping public safety personnel and the entire work force as safe as possible, she said. Also important is serving the public and putting plans in place that allow for continuing government operations, especially during times like the pandemic.
The vote to advance the issue to the full commission passed by a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Kane voting no. It will be on the agenda of the 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30, UG Commission meeting.
Making a public comment during the meeting was Mark Millstead, who has worked for the Kansas City, Kansas, Fire Department. He mentioned adverse events on the vaccine reporting system. He asked if the UG was taking the liability for death or adverse effects of the vaccine, for those who choose to get the vaccine.
Flags at half-staff for COVID victims
Gvv. Laura Kelly directed that flags be lowered to half-staff throughout the state from Monday through sundown Wednesday, Sept. 29, to honor the more than 6,000 lives lost due to COVID-19 in Kansas, and the families they left behind.
“It is with great sadness that, for the sixth time since the pandemic began, I am ordering flags to half-staff to honor the lives and memories of another 1,000 Kansans who have died from COVID-19,” Gov. Kelly said. “We have the tools to stop the virus in its tracks and prevent further unnecessary deaths of our loved ones and neighbors. I urge all Kansans to get vaccinated, wear masks, and follow best health practices.”
Trying to tell the difference between allergies and COVID
It’s difficult to tell the difference between allergies and COVID. The topic was discussed Monday at the morning medical update at University of Kansas Health System.
According to Dr. Marissa Love, allergist at KU Health System, two things they look for is whether the patient has a fever and knowing if they have been exposed to the virus.
Dr. Love said telehealth appointments are good for patients who do not know whether they have COVID or an allergy.
Currently, the Kansas City area is in peak weed season. Itchy eyes, nose, sneezing and nasal congestion are some of the symptoms. If symptoms persist too long, the patient should get help, as it could cause a sinus infection, according to Dr. Love.
Dr. Love said it is common for some to have an adverse reaction to the COVID vaccine, such as a sore arm or a brief mild fever. It’s very rare for anyone to have a truly life-threatening allergic reaction, she said.
Dr. Love advised everyone ages 12 and older to get vaccinated, and to keep wearing masks in schools and in indoor public places.
Pfizer booster shots available in Wyandotte County
In other COVID news, the Unified Government Health Department clarified where COVID-19 Pfizer booster shots are available in Wyandotte County, and who is eligible.
According to the UG Health Department, there was some confusion about it.
Those who should receive a booster shot at least 6 months after their Pfizer primary series include:
• People 65 and older or residents in long-term care settings.
• People age 50-64 with certain underlying medical conditions.
Those who may receive a booster shot at least 6 months after their Pfizer primary series:
• People age 18-49 with underlying medical conditions, based on their individual benefits and risks, and
• People age 18-64 who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institution setting (Health workers, teachers, grocery store workers, congregant settings, etc.) based on their individual benefits and risks.
Underlying medical conditions can include, but aren’t limited to, conditions such as cancer, chronic lung or kidney disease, dementia, diabetes, Down syndrome, heart conditions, HIV infection, liver disease, obesity, pregnancy and others.
Booster shots are available only to people who have been previously vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine and who fall within the recommended groups. The current recommendation does not allow for providing a booster dose of Pfizer for anyone who has been previously vaccinated with Moderna or Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
Free COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters are available at the former Kmart building at 7836 State Ave. in Kansas City, Kansas, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday.
Booster doses also are available at a variety of other locations throughout Wyandotte County, including many pharmacies, medical practitioners and other health care providers. To learn more about where booster doses are available, people can visit vaccines.gov.
More information is available at WycoVaccines.org or call 311.
Vaccines, tests available
COVID-19 vaccines and testing are available from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 28, at the Vibrant Health Cordell D. Meeks Jr. Clinic, 4313 State Ave., Kansas City, Kansas. No appointment is necessary.
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. Tuesday, Sept. 28, at the Kansas National Guard Armory, 100 S. 20th. Appointments are necessary. 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, including a same-day 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 66 total COVID-19 patients on Monday, Sept. 27, a decrease of four since Friday, according to Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control. Twenty-nine patients with the active virus were inpatients on Monday, a decrease of three from Friday. Only four were vaccinated. Ten patients were in the intensive care unit, a decrease of one since Friday. Seven patients were on ventilators on Monday, a decrease of two from Friday. Thirty-seven other patients were still hospitalized from COVID, but were out of the acute infection phase, a decrease of one from Friday.
Wyandotte County reported a cumulative 23,892 cases on Monday, Sept. 27, an increase of 104 cases since Friday, Sept. 24, according to the Unified Government Health Department’s COVID-19 webpage. There were a cumulative total of 363 deaths on Monday, an increase of two deaths since Friday.
On Wednesday, Sept. 22, the Unified Government Health Department reported that 48.34 percent of Wyandotte County residents had received at least one dose of vaccine. Those completing their vaccinations totaled about 41.46 percent.
The percentage of Wyandotte County residents who were age 12 and older who had received at least one dose was 59.5 percent.
The Mid-America Regional Council reported 213,612 cases on Monday in Greater Kansas City, a nine-county area. There were a total of 2,901 deaths. The daily average of new hospitalizations was 101.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported 406,453 cumulative COVID-19 cases in Kansas on Monday, Sept. 27, an increase of 1,994 since Friday, Sept. 24. There was a total of 6,024 cumulative deaths reported statewide, an increase of 43 since Sept. 24.
The KDHE reported 74,468 cumulative COVID-19 cases in Johnson County on Sept. 27, an increase of 294 since Sept. 24. Leavenworth County had 9,894 cases on Sept. 27, an increase of 31 since Sept. 24. Sedgwick County (the Wichita area) reported 75,767 cases on Sept. 27, an increase of 568 since Sept. 24.
On Monday night, there were a cumulative 43,116,407 COVID-19 cases in the United States, with a cumulative 690,426 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