Low vaccination rates in surrounding counties concern JoCo public health officials

covid testing

Covid rates and infections continue to climb in Johnson County as area JCDHE leaders continue to recommend masks.

Here’s what’s happening

Is a mask mandate on the way?

Mask mandates remain a talking point as health officials continue to recommend federal guidelines regarding masks and social distancing to at-risk groups. However, local leaders are only recommending, not mandating, that unvaccinated people wear face masks.

The head of Johnson County’s health department, Dr. Sanmi Areola, also said no mandates or business restrictions are being considered at this time. “JCDHE monitors virus trends closely and will work with partners to make decisions to ensure the health and safety of the community,” Areola said.

Because of the surge of the Delta variant, the CDC is concerned with the large demographic of Americans that remain unvaccinated— calling it a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’.

What’s concerning for Johnson County residents is the high mobility of people in the area and low vaccination rate within Kansas City Metro area—Missouri sits at 40.2% fully vaccinated and while Kansas is higher at 43.5% both are below the national average of 49.3%.

Currently, Johnson County sits at 50.6%, but speaking at the Board of Commissioners meeting on Thursday, Areola said, “while the number for Johnson County are pretty good, the number for most of the adjoining counties are not quite as good. And because there is a lot of movement across the counties I think a more practical way to look at it would be how the regional numbers are.”

Concerns for the coming school year

As vaccination rate for young people lag—9.9% for individuals 17 years and younger. And with the absence of an available vaccine for individuals 12 and younger the upcoming school year will be a battleground for stoping the spread of the virus.

More recently, five of six school districts have said they will recommend but NOT require masks for students, employees and faculty. The sixth, Shawnee Mission, is expected to announce its back-to-school plan Monday the 26th.

The school district’s decision to not require masks stands at odd with the JCDHE recommendations which were raised to superintendents and school board members.

 

Graph showing the percent of positive COVID cases in Johnson County. Percent positivity is currently 7.4%.
Johnson County’s percent positivity continues to trend upward following weeks of low rates. Image via Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.

Areola echoed this message on Thursday citing that data analyzed by the JCDHE officials indicate less than 1% of individuals wearing masks will become infected.“If we send our children to school without masks, we have to be aware of what will happen. There will be infections,” Areola said.

Because unvaccinated children will be at higher risk during indoor learning, the risk of transmission within Johnson county has the potential to rise.

What’s next?

Health and local leaders are aware of the rise and potent threat the Delta variant poses to those who are unvaccinated or have underlying health conditions but have not made any indication they will implement a mask mandate again.

Why it’s important

What’s more concerning is the stress on metro hospitals currently. With the uptick in hospitalizations due to a combination of the rise of COVID-19 related illnesses and natural illness and injury occurring in the metro area, hospitals are reaching capacity and are currently at a pivotal point, as available beds are becoming scarce.

Numbers

Percent Positive: 7.4% percent positive (up from 6.4 on July 14)
Incidence rate: 164 incidence rate, number of new cases/100K persons, over prior 14 days (increase of 57 since July 14)

Cumulative cases: 47,992 positive cases of COVID-19 (increase of 556 since July 14)
Total deaths: 678 deaths (increase of 3 deaths since July 14)

Vaccination opportunities this week:

Local health officials continue to encourage residents of Johnson County to get vaccinated if they have not yet already.
On Friday, July 23:

Bistreaux on 8725 Metcalf Ave., from 4:30-7:30 p.m. Anyone age 12 and older may walk-in for available vaccinations

ExBEERiment Brewing, 925 E. Lincoln Lane, from 5-7 p.m. Anyone age 12 and older may walk-in for available vaccinations

Sunday, July 25:

St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church, 12251 Antioch Road, from 12-5 p.m. Anyone 12 and older may walk-in for vaccinations

Anyone needing a vaccination can simply walk in to the county’s mass vaccine clinic at 15500 W. 108th Street in Lenexa during designated hours.

That mass vaccine clinic will operate on the following hours through July 29:

9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Tuesdays

3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays

Starting Monday, August 2, first and second doses will be offered at a vaccination clinic at in Mission, 6000 Lamar Ave., suite 140. That clinic will operate from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday

Vaccinations are also available at the JCDHE Olathe walk-in clinic at 11875 S Sunset Dr. #300 for individuals being seen for other services.

Each week the JCDHE will host several COVID-19 vaccination clinics across Johnson County. You can see an updated list here.