State responds to low vaccination rankings, 135 current cases in Ellis County

BY JUSTIN SABATA

COVID Statewide

On Wednesday, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported over 5,500 new cases in the state since Monday. 130 new deaths were also reported with 158 recent hospitalizations. 

Since the pandemic began, there have been over 7,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths due to COVID in Kansas. Yet, according to the KDHE, 32% of ICU beds and 81% of ventilators in the state were available as of Tuesday. The day before, 36% of beds were available as were 79% of ventilators. 

Governor Laura Kelly issued a press release Tuesday announcing the amount of COVID tests conducted in Kansas last year. According to the report, over 1 million tests were given in 2020, exceeding the goal set by the governor. 

“In October, we launched our Unified Testing Strategy with a goal of testing one million Kansans by the end of the year – and today, I’m excited to announce that we exceeded that number,” Kelly said in the release. “This coordinated partnership between state health officials and local providers, in addition to a majority of counties’ decision to adopt face covering requirements, led to the control of the spread of the virus in Kansas for the first time since the stay-at-home order was lifted in May.”

According to the KDHE, 1,037,519 tests have been administered in Kansas with 800,701 returning negative. With these numbers, the overall percent-of-positives rate is nearly 23%.

COVID in Ellis County

During Monday’s Ellis County Commission meeting, a statement from county health services director Jason Kennedy was read by fire chief and emergency manager Darin Myers. In the statement, Kennedy reported a downward trend in cases since late November.

“I encourage the community to continue taking personal measures to protect themselves and their loved ones,” Myers said on behalf of Kennedy.

According to the department’s COVID-19 Portal, Ellis County averaged six new cases per day in the week leading up to Wednesday. 135 active cases are currently being monitored by the ECHD and the weekly average percent-of-positives rate stands at 12.2% (17.1% overall). Since the last update released on December 30, hospitalizations have increased from five to eight. 

There have also been four new deaths in that amount of time. 

Vaccine

In Monday’s meeting, the health director also gave an update on the vaccinations of the health department staff.

“We have all been administered different doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at the health department as a Phase 1 priority staff,” the statement said.

Phase 1 of the CDC’s “Phased Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccines” includes medical personnel and long-term care residents. 

Recently, Kansas was ranked last nationally in COVID-19 vaccinations given. Once the rankings were released, the state accounted the results to both slow returning data and prioritization over recording data. 

According to the Kansas City Star, the online resources used to record vaccinations are relatively new while facilities have focused more on “getting vaccines into arms over reporting of vaccinations.” 

Kennedy updated the public on vaccinations in his statement on Monday. According to the report, as of Monday, Ellis County had not been updated on the ongoing situation. 

“We have not received any information from the state regarding the availability, or when the additional shipments (of vaccines) will be available,” the statement said. 

Kennedy estimated that COVID vaccines would be widely available in Ellis County by spring. The possibility of a mass vaccination event was also reported.

“We encourage everyone to continue educating themselves on the benefits of being vaccinated,” the statement said.

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