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Teens can now get COVID vaccine
UK variant shows up in Barton County
Living with covid - Tribune.jpg

With an additional COVID-19 death and the report of a nasty virus variant in Barton County, Health Director Karen Winkelman told the County Commission Monday morning said there was a bright spot. They did get the approval from the Kansas Departmentof Health and Environment to administer the Pfizer shots to those age 12 and older. 

“So we do have the ability to vaccinate those children,” she said. They had a brief Zoom meeting with superintendents in the county Friday to see if there’s interest and letting them know they would be willing to come into the schools.

“I know this late in the school year, but we did offer that service if they so choose to,” she said.

In the past week, the department has administered a total of 113 doses, bringing the total to 10,329. In the previous week, it was 138 “so, we’re down just a little bit,” she said. 

“We do have all of the vaccine preparations available,” she said. They have the two-dose Moderna and one-dose Johnson and Johnson, and are expecting a shipment of two-dose Pfizer by Wednesday. 

With the public choosing which vaccine to take, she said they typically provide the information “and we let them make the decision.” The majority who come in already have an idea of which they want.  

At this point, the hospitals the department serves are relying on the Health Department to place the orders. So far, only Clara Barton Hospital in Hoisington has made a request, and that was for the Pfizer vaccine.

Pharmacies are still vaccinating also.

A variant appears

Winkelman was notified by the KDHE Sunday night that a “variant of concern”  has been found in Barton County. This is the B117 from the United Kingdom and is 50% more transmissible.

“I’ve been doing some research on it,” she said. “I still need to confirm the demographics on it and I’ve been communicating with KDHE.”

There are about 51 counties that have reported variants of concern, with about 884 cases across the state that have been identified. 

There’s still studies being done on if those who have been vaccinated are protected from the variant, she said. “And they feel that there is some protection.”

But, “there’s so many different mutations when it comes to viruses,” she said. “So, that is the best we have right now.”  

By the numbers

Monday morning, there were six active positive Barton County cases currently in isolation, bringing the total to 2,516 since the onset of the pandemic, Winkelman said. There also three active quarantine recommendations. 

The KDHE has also recorded one additional death in Barton County which brings us to 49. 

In Barton County, Winkelman said 32.8% of the total population is vaccinated. With the eligible population, that jumped a percentage point to 41.5% since last week. 

Pharmacies and hospitals that give the jabs are required to input their numbers into the Kansas registry. So the KDHE data  takes all of Barton County into consideration, although it sometimes takes a while for the numbers to be calculated.

The state is reported a vaccination rate of 39.9% with at least one dose.

When asked about herd immunity, “what I’m hearing is that 80% is sort of the target number of the population being vaccinated. Herd immunity is important.”

But, she doubts that is likely here. She would be happy with 50% or close to that.

There are other factors, such as those who have a natural antibodies after having the virus. That she has no way of tracking.

Making their job easier

Last week, the KDHE released health department to co-administer vaccines “which will be a huge benefit for us and for the community,” she said. This means they can give COVID vaccine on the same day that someone comes for a tetanus shot, or the teens come for their meningitis or HPV shots.

“Prior to last week, we had to wait two weeks in between,” she said. “And I was already stressing about flu vaccine coming up  and thinking of how we will manage that.”

The only exception is the tuberculosis skin test. They still have to wait four weeks.

Other update information:

• Kansas Governor Laura Kelly last week announced Kansans adopted the Centers for Disease Control latest mask-wearing guidelines which noted that those fully vaccinated are no longer required to wear masks indoors or outdoors, or physically distance in most circumstances, except where required by businesses, public transportation or healthcare facilities. Those who feel more comfortable wearing a mask are welcome to do so. 

• If someone has lost their vaccination card (received after they are fully vaccinated), they can contact the Health Department, Winkelman said. “We’ve put our data into the Kansas WebIZ system, which is a Kansas registry system. So it is in there documented and we’ll just issue a new card.”

• They continue to provide vaccines walk in basis. If anyone comes in, they will open a vial and not worry about wastage as per direction of KDHE.

Their next weekend vaccine distribution will be during June Jaunt from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 5.

• Winkelman said she wouldn’t want to speculate on how many people had COVID but were never tested, but said the number could be large. There were those who didn’t want to risk being quarantines if they tested positive.

• They also continue to do testing on a walk-in basis, with about 10 tests being administered last week. 

Winkelman was asked about the self-, home-testing kits on the market.

She said there are a lot of factors surrounding their accuracy, such as how deep  nto the nasal cavity does one go with the swab. “You really want to get a good specimen to have the most accurate.”

Barton County Commission meeting at a glance

Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Monday morning:

• Reappointed Dan Esfeld to the Memorial Parks Advisory Committee.

The committee is charged with advising and assisting the commission regarding the care and maintenance of the Barton County owned and operated Golden Belt and Hillcrest memorial parks. With not less than five, nor more than seven members, there are two terms expiring in July 2021, County Works Director Darren Williams said.

This brings the committee membership to six with one vacancy remaining. Six is enough for the committee to function.

• Heard a COVID-19 update from Health Director Karen Winkelman.

• Held budget meetings with Information Technology, Appraiser’s Office, Register of Deeds, Fire District No. 1, County Clerk/Election, Treasurer, Environmental Management, Emergency Risk Management, Engineering, County Works, District Court Office, Sunflower Diversified Services and County Attorney’s Office.