Nine-hundred set to get vaccine, active cases lowest since fall

By Adam Strunk

Nine hundred COVID-19 vaccinations are filled and scheduled; 1,800 more residents aged 65 and older  are on waiting lists.

The Harvey County Health Department gave an update Tuesday following the roll out of its Phase 2 vaccination efforts last week.

That roll out saw the county’s call center overwhelmed Jan. 28, as some seniors reported calling hundreds and thousands of times in order to be able to get through and get their name on a vaccine list. Health Department Director Lynnette Redington gave assurances that the system has now been improved.

“Yes, they can get in much easier,” she said, noting that the Retired Senior Volunteer Program are helping with the effort. “We have folks lined up and a lot of volunteers.”

The county has more people answering phones and now has an online sign up list for vaccines, as well. (https://www.harveycounty.com/covid19vaccine)

“We want to mention, once you do it online and hit button, that has been done; you have been added to the list,” Redington said.

Rough counts of previous allocations to Health Ministries, the county and the hospital put the number of individuals already vaccinated at roughly 1,600 individuals (not all will be county residents, as some vaccines went to front-line workers in Harvey County who live outside the county).

The two clinics scheduled on Feb. 4 and 9 should bump that number up to around 2,500.

The clinics represent two weeks allocations worth of vaccines from the state.

Redington stated that the county was completely dependent on the state for vaccines, which in turn, depended on the federal government.

She said the federal government was allocating vaccines to states based on population, meaning Kansas got about one percent of the regular allocations. Harvey County represents a bit more than one percent of Kansas’s population, so if you wanted to play the numbers game, on the basis of population, Harvey County would be due 100 vaccines for every million allocated nationwide.

Redington said future weekly allocation numbers from the State of Kansas do still remain unknown, but she said the state will begin providing allocation forecasts once the federal government provides three-week forecasts for allocations as the Biden Administration recently promised.

There soon could be another pipeline for vaccines into the county.

The Biden Administration announced Tuesday it would begin shipping 1 million doses to 6,500 participating pharmacies and stores across the country, starting Feb 11. Local participating locations were initially unavailable as of press time, but the Hesston Pharmacy and Harvey Drug, which have served as testing locations through state and federal programs, are offering paper and online sign up sheets for appointments.

The upcoming chance to vaccinate nearly 1,000 residents was only part of the good news at the Tuesday press conference.

Redington discussed county COVID-19 cases. Active cases have dropped below 100 for the first time since October and were sitting at 85 Tuesday.

“Hopefully we’ll continue to see a downward active case number,” she said. “It’s very exciting as we’re under 100 […] We only have four in the hospital.”

The county saw an average of around 12 confirmed cases a day last week, far below the daily amount in the 30s and 40s it was seeing in previous months.

Redington said she believed some of the decline was a result in the county having finally made it through the illnesses in family gatherings caused by Christmas and New Year’s.

She did say that she encouraged people to keep getting tested for the disease if they do get sick or are a close contact of someone who is ill.

She also noted that, even after a vaccination, people need to still keep distancing, washing their hands and wearing masks.

It takes more than a month for multiple doses of the vaccine to trigger the complete intended immune response, and data currently isn’t available on how much the virus can be spread if a person vaccinated contracts an asymptomatic or mild case of the virus.