TOPEKA, Kan. – COVID-19 hospitalizations are increasing in the Kansas City area, according to doctors at the University of Kansas Health System news conference Wednesday morning.
At KU Health System, with its main hospital campus in Kansas City, Kansas, acute infection inpatients went up by seven on Wednesday, according to Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control. So far, the hospitalized patients have not been vaccinated, according to Dr. Hawkinson.
Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City, Missouri, reported COVID-19 inpatients went up to 13 active patients, from eight previously, according to Dr. Mark Steele, executive chief clinical officer at Truman.
At Liberty Hospital in Missouri, there was a little uptick with COVID-19 patients going from three to seven on Wednesday, according to Dr. Raghu Adiga, chief medical officer.
At Advent Health – Shawnee Mission, there has not been an uptick so far but they are preparing for one, according to Dr. Larry Botts, chief medical officer. They have between five and 10 COVID-19 patients, he said, which is less than previous numbers.
Dr. Adiga said it’s important to get vaccinations up, and keep wearing masks and social distancing, especially with spring break and religious celebrations ahead. The younger generation is more likely to be mobile and spreading the virus, and it’s important to get vaccinations to that population.
Changes in COVID-19 laws in Topeka starting to affect local communities; Sedgwick County votes down mask mandate
In Topeka, the Kansas Legislature passed Senate Bill 40, containing several changes to the emergency powers of the governor. Gov. Laura Kelly on Wednesday signed the bill, and sent out a news release stating it was a compromise and she was against some parts of the bill and for some parts of it.
The bill gives more control over the emergency powers to the Kansas Legislature, and it also makes it easier for anyone to sue a county or city over restrictions such as mask-wearing or any pandemic restrictions.
Then the Sedgwick County Commission, whose area includes the city of Wichita, voted down the county’s health orders that required mask-wearing, on a 3-2 vote. Some viewed the new law as forcing counties to lift the mask mandates. (See details at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hS67_8YlGfc) Some commissioners at that meeting said they wanted the governor to let them move into Phase 5 this week to give more vaccinations.
Sedgwick County had 82 new COVID-19 cases from Monday to Wednesday, according to Kansas Department of Health and Environment statistics.
Senate Bill 40, signed into law, will extend the disaster declaration to May 28, according to the governor’s office.
“This bipartisan compromise will extend the State of Disaster Emergency that allows us to provide hospitals with PPE, support food banks and pantries, and otherwise respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gov. Kelly stated in the news release. “The bill includes provisions that I do not support and that could complicate our emergency response efforts. But I will continue to work with legislators and local leaders to keep Kansans safe and healthy during this pandemic.”
In the news release, Gov. Kelly stated that Senate Bill 40 revokes all the governor’s executive orders on COVID-19, but the governor has the authority to re-issue the orders under a new process in the bill. The governor stated she will re-issue orders on April 1, including an order allowing notaries and witnesses to work through audio-visual communication; temporary relief from certain restrictions on shared work programs; licensure, certification and registration for persons and adult care homes; temporarily prohibiting foreclosures and evictions; establishing a face coverings protocol applying to all counties; requiring COVID-19 testing in some adult care homes; relating to drivers’ license and identification cards during the disaster (executive order 20-70); temporary relief from certain unemployment insurance requirements; temporary provisions for employer payment of income tax withholding for work in another state; temporary relief from certain tuberculin testing requirements; extending time for rural water districts to hold annual meetings; and temporary authorization for additional vaccinators.
There are some emergency orders that will not be re-issued, according to the governor, including: allowing certain deferred tax deadlines and payments during the state of disaster emergency (executive order 20-37); requiring COVID-19 mitigation procedures in K-12 schools (executive order 20-59); and amending provisions related to drivers’ license and vehicle registration, and regulation during the state of disaster emergency (executive order 20-66).
Senate Bill 40 also says that where public schools are concerned, only the schools’ board of education will have the authority to take any action, issue any order or adopt any policy in response to the disaster. The new law stated that health officers and state governments can offer guidance, but not issue orders applying to the schools. Only the local school board can close schools, can authorize attendance other than full-time, in-person attendance, and can mandate any action by students or employees while on school district property, according to the law.
The new law also outlines how students and parents can challenge the school boards’ rules.
The law also outlines a great number of situations involving the emergency powers, and it stated that anyone can sue in district court over an executive order within 30 days of its issuance. “The court shall grant the request for relief unless the court finds such executive order is narrowly tailored to respond to the state of disaster emergency and uses the least restrictive means to achieve such purpose.” If the court doesn’t issue an order within seven days, the relief will be granted, according to the new law.
The new law limits the authority of local health officers, also. Any health order would have to be considered first by the county commission before receiving approval, according to the new law. See Senate Bill 40 at http://kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/documents/sb40_enrolled.pdf.
Doctor urges people to keep wearing masks
At the KU Health System news conference Wednesday morning, Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer, said there is overwhelming proof that masks work, and the virus is still out there. While not making a comment about political actions, he said masks prevent disease transmission.
“I don’t know why anyone would want to put out to stop mask mandates right now when only 8 to 13 percent of our population has had two vaccinations,” Dr. Stites said. “From a medical standpoint, I could not support that.”
Masks are helping to keep people alive, he said.
For a while, hospitalizations were down, in part because people were driven inside by the extremely cold weather, as well as because of good masking and vaccinations, Dr. Stites said.
What they’re seeing in the past few weeks is another surge in many other states, he said. The way to stay safe is to wear a mask and keep distance, he said.
Johnson County also will be considering whether to lift its mask mandate soon, according to reports. Johnson County had 146 new COVID-19 cases between Monday and Wednesday, according to KDHE statistics.
On March 11, Wyandotte County extended its local state of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic through June 15, with a unanimous vote by the Unified Government Commission. It extends the local health orders through mid-June and makes it possible for the local government to receive federal aid to fight COVID-19.
Although Wyandotte County has only 14.8 percent of the residents who have received at least one dose of vaccine, the county has only five new COVID-19 patients reported from Tuesday to Wednesday, according to the UG Health Department COVID-19 website.
Johnson and Johnson not sending as much vaccine to Kansas as previously thought
Kansas is not going to get as many doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccine that it was promised this week, according to Dr. Lee Norman, Kansas secretary of health. Dr. Norman spoke during the “Conversation with Your Congresswoman” telephone conference with U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, D-3rd Dist., on Wednesday evening. Joe Reardon, president of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, also was on the call.
Dr. Norman said vaccine supply has been “very unpredictable.”
Recently, the state has received from 140,000 to 160,000 doses of vaccine, he said.
“We were promised 100,000 doses of J and J this week, and ended up with 13,000,” Dr. Norman said. “We had to adjust what was coming through the pipeline.”
According to a KDHE news release, Kansas will receive about 16,500 doses of Johnson and Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccines next week, instead of the estimated 100,000. Shipments were delayed because of production issues and could be delayed until the second or third week of April. Another company now is helping to manufacturing the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. In addition to the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, Kansas will receive an increase in Pfizer first doses, to 47,970, and Pfizer second doses, 38,100, according to KDHE. The state will receive 27,800 Moderna first doses and 27,800 Moderna second doses.
Kansas now has about 25 percent of the residents vaccinated with at least one dose, and 14 percent have been fully immunized, Dr. Norman said. The state is 33rd in the nation for vaccinations, he said. Almost 1.2 million doses have been given, he said.
Twenty-seven other states have started to see an increase in COVID-19 case rates, Dr. Norman said. Kansas is “still going the right direction,” with a decline in case rates, he said. “People can’t blink and let their guards down.”
Dr. Norman was asked about Dr. Anthony Fauci wearing two masks when he was at a congressional hearing. Dr. Norman also discussed new CDC guidelines on wearing masks.
“The vaccines are very safe, very effective,” Dr. Norman said. “We don’t know exactly how long the immunity lasts.”
The current guidelines are that if people are fully vaccinated, they can hug or have closer contact with the people in their household, he said. If people get sick, they should get tested and get it checked out, he said.
He added that if vaccines are 95 percent effective, it means that 5 percent of the time they are not effective. When people are out and about in public, and in businesses, they should still wear masks, he said.
“In public, caution is the better way to go about it,” Dr. Norman said. “A mask will never let you down. When we get 80 to 90 percent of the people vaccinated, we’ll have a different story to tell, but that’s where we are now.”
COVID-19 case numbers reported
Case numbers in America topped 30 million on Wednesday, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus website.
The University of Kansas Health System reported 16 active COVID-19 patients on Wednesday morning, an increase of seven from Tuesday, according to Dr. Hawkinson. Of the 16 patients, three were in the intensive care unit, a decrease of two since Tuesday. Two patients were on a ventilator, the same as Tuesday. There were another 18 COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized but are out of the acute infection phase, an increase of 11 since Tuesday. There is a total 34 patients, an increase of 18 from Tuesday.
Wyandotte County reported an increase of five COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, March 24, since Tuesday, for a cumulative 17,991 cases. There was a cumulative total of 283 deaths reported, no change since Tuesday.
The Mid-America Regional Council’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 163,316 cumulative COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. The daily average of new hospitalizations was 73. The number of cumulative deaths was 2,310.
The state of Kansas reported 300,927 cumulative COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, March 24, an increase of 792 cases since Wednesday. There were a total cumulative 4,881 deaths reported, an increase of 31 deaths.
The Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard on Wednesday night reported 30,010,932 cases in the United States, with 545,281 total deaths reported nationwide.
Vaccinations available Thursday
Wyandotte County has started Phases 3 and 4 in the state’s vaccination plan.
People with certain underlying health conditions and other critical workers are in these phases. They may fill out the Health Department’s vaccine interest form at WycoVaccines.org or call 3-1-1. Appointments are needed.
Those who are ages 16 to 64 with severe medical conditions, listed in the state’s plan, are in Phase 3, and those 16 to 64 with other medical conditions are listed in Phase 4.
The list includes cancer patients, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart conditions, pregnant patients and some other categories. To view the list of the severe medical conditions in Phase 3 and other conditions in Phase 4, view the vaccine plan on the state’s website at https://www.kansasvaccine.gov/DocumentCenter/View/121/Vaccine-Prioritization-Slides-PDF.
Also in Phase 3 are “other critical workers,” according to the state plan, listed above.
Those who want to be vaccinated in Phases 3 and 4 should complete the UG Health Department’s vaccine interest form online at WycoVaccines.org or call 3-1-1, and they will be contacted to schedule appointments.
The Unified Government Health Department is still offering walk-in COVID-19 vaccines Monday through Friday for Wyandotte County residents who are 65 and older, and also for high-contact critical workers in Phases 1 and 2. The walk-in appointments are not for Phases 3 and 4.
Those Wyandotte County residents who are 65 or older, and critical workers in Phases 1 and 2, can walk in and do not need an appointment from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at the vaccination sites at the former Kmart store at 7836 State Ave., the former Best Buy store at 10500 Parallel Parkway and the Kansas National Guard Armory at 100 S. 20th (near 18th and Ridge).
Those in Phases 1 and 2 who walk in to get vaccines should bring an ID and something showing their Wyandotte County address, such as mail. Critical workers should bring a work badge or a document showing they work in Wyandotte County.
Those Wyandotte County residents who are younger than 65, or are not eligible yet, may fill out a form expressing interest in getting a vaccine at WycoVaccines.org or call 3-1-1.
For more information about vaccines at the UG Health Department, visit https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-vaccines-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/.
There are also pharmacies giving COVID-19 vaccinations in Wyandotte County by appointment, when available. These include Price Chopper and Hen House pharmacy at 76th and State Avenue, and 81st and State Avenue (see https://www.ballsfoodspharmacy.com/), and Medicine Shoppe pharmacy at 65th and Parallel by appointment when available (see https://www.facebook.com/The-Medicine-Shoppe-Kansas-City-281548241870522). CVS pharmacy also has announced that it will offer COVID-19 vaccines at one of its stores in Kansas City, Kansas. Registration is at CVS.com.
COVID-19 tests scheduled Thursday
Free COVID-19 tests are offered from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, March 25, at Vibrant Health, Argentine location, 1428 S. 32nd St., Kansas City, Kansas.
The tests are in conjunction with the Wyandotte County Health Equity Task Force. Appointments are not necessary. Free groceries will be given to those who are tested at this site, while supplies last.
Unified Government Health Department COVID-19 testing and vaccine sites are scheduled to be open on Thursday, March 25. The test site at the former Kmart building at 78th and State will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, March 5. Appointments are not needed for COVID-19 tests and vaccinations for those over 65 on Thursday. There is also a UG Health Department location for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations at the former Best Buy store, 10500 Parallel Parkway, Kansas City, Kansas. A third Health Department site, for vaccinations, is at the Kansas National Guard Armory at 100 S. 20th.
More information is at https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/pages/what-to-do-if-you-think-you-have-covid-19. 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.