Weekly COVID-19 Update: Johnson County nears 5% positivity, thousands in line for second vaccine dose

The Johnson County health department continues to say its vaccination efforts are hindered by a lack of supply. “I don’t think it’s going to be the quick fix that we all hoped it would be," said director of epidemiology Elizabeth Holzschuh. Above, a file photo of AdventHealth Shawnee Mission healthcare workers prepare COVID-19 vaccine doses. Image courtesy AdventHealth Shawnee Mission.

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The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment will continue to prioritize those 80-years-old and older, K-12 school employees and childcare providers for the time being, but will also put an emphasis on second dose distribution in its Okun Fieldhouse and the Arts and Heritage Center clinics this week.

Thousands of appointments have been set aside for Moderna and Pfizer second doses at clinics running through Friday. Somewhere around 7,000 people could be due their second doses this week, said county health director Sanmi Areola, Ph.D.

People who are due their second dose of either vaccine this week should have already heard from JCDHE about setting up an appointment. There’s a 42-day window following the first dose before a person needs to receive the second dose.

More local hospitals get vaccines through county

St. Luke’s and Menorah Medical Center joined the group of other health care systems in the county to receive vaccine doses from JCDHE to distribute to their patients. While still limited, this opens other avenues for vaccination in the community, Johnson County director of epidemiology Elizabeth Holzschuh said Tuesday.

You can get updates and find out more information about local health system’s vaccine availabilities here. Still, county health officials say it is important to keep in mind that health systems are prioritizing those 65 years and older and are also focusing mostly on their patients.

Retail pharmacies offering limited number of vaccines

Soon, Johnson County residents may be able to get vaccinated at a handful of pharmacies in the area through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership.

Though it started officially this week, it won’t be an immediate fix to the persistent problems with low supply, Holzschuh said. Across the entire state of Kansas, just shy of 9,000 doses will be distributed through the federal partnership.

“It’d be great if with the snap of the finger we were able to get vaccines from the federal government to our pharmacy partners and start immunizing as many residents as possible in this phase — unfortunately, supplies are still limited,” Holzschuh said last week. “I don’t think it’s going to be the quick fix that we all hoped it would be.”

When doses do become available through the pharmacy network, doses will be prioritized for those currently eligible in Tier 1 of Phase 2 of JCDHE’s vaccine rollout, which is mostly people 65 and older, along with some “high contact critical workers,” like teachers and grocery store workers.

Here’s a look at the overall trends in Johnson County

Data via Johnson County Department of Health and Environment COVID-19 dashboard.

 

In Johnson County and across the metro area, new COVID-19 cases are trending downward. Johnson County’s positivity rate fell from about 7% last week to 6% this week. The goal is a positivity rate of 5%.

As of Wednesday, data from JCDHE has the new cases per 100,000 residents metric at 263, a 27% decline from the week before, but still higher than the goal of 50 incidents per 100,000 residents.

“The numbers are coming down in terms of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” Dr. Lee Norman, secretary for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said on Tuesday. “But we still have our hands full.”

UK variant found in Kansas

There does, however, remain some concern that the Super Bowl might have been a super-spreader event if households and previously maintained cohorts mixed for watch parties and celebrations.

Additionally, at least two cases of COVID-19 caused by the UK variant have been documented in Ellis County, making Kansas one of at least 30 states in the U.S. to have recorded cases of the variant strains.

“We knew it was only a matter of time,” Norman said.

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