County health department reports 83 active cases as statewide vaccine difficulties persist

BY JUSTIN SABATA

As the pandemic approaches another month on the calendar, the situation has improved in Ellis County. The Ellis County Health Department reported 83 active cases on Wednesday. Over the past week, the county averaged six new cases per day. This is a decrease from Monday’s numbers, which reported 93 active cases and a weekly average of eight cases a day. 

On Monday, ECHD Director of Health Services Jason Kennedy gave his report to the county commission.

“Obviously, if you keep track of our numbers, our cases are better,” Kennedy said. “Impacts are better, you know, everything really has improved since that kind of November, early November timeframe.” 

The health department reported 18 new cases and five active hospitalizations on Wednesday. 49 people have died due to COVID in Ellis County, five in the past week. The weekly average percent-of-positive has decreased slightly from 13% on Monday to 12.7% on Wednesday. 202 tests were administered between Monday and Wednesday according to the ECHD.

Across the country, vaccine distribution has had a difficult start. NPR reported that the U.S. aimed to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of 2020. According to the report, only 6 million were vaccinated last year. The situation seems to be the same in the new year, at least in Kansas.

“The availability of vaccine is not good,” Kennedy said. “We received 80 initial doses, we have not received any doses in between that – and we did, as of noon today (Monday), receive the second 80 doses to at least vaccinate the second time.” 

In a question brought up by Commissioner Butch Schlyer, Kennedy gave an update on vaccine distribution in local nursing facilities. 

“All three of our skilled nursing facilities – (in) Ellis and the two here in town (Hays) – they have received their first round of Pfizer vaccine,” Kennedy said.

However, the health director indicated that not everyone in these facilities has been vaccinated yet.

“Not every single resident has taken it, not all the workers,” Kennedy said. “But, there has been a sufficient amount for everyone in the skilled nursing facilities.” 

Kennedy also pointed out that other local, non-skilled assisted living facilities have not received the vaccine. 

“Some of those are still part of that private partnership through Walgreens and CVS,” Kennedy said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, over 129,000 Kansans received the first dose of the COVID vaccine. However, according to the KDHE, only about 17,000 have received the second dose. 

“We’ve received very little communication pretty much in general from the KDHE,” Kennedy said. “We, actually, to get a response from KDHE, we actually had to engage Senator (Jerry) Moran’s office to get them to get us a response from KDHE on when we might receive some vaccine – and the response was ‘we still don’t know’.”

About 4% of the state’s population has been vaccinated. A majority of those vaccinated have been aged 25-64. Despite the difficulties in Topeka, Kennedy assured that Ellis County is prepared to begin vaccinating the community once supplies are available. 

“We have everything except for the vaccine to start more widespread vaccine rollout,” Kennedy said.

Residents are encouraged to visit the COVID-19 information page on the ECHD website. Information on vaccines and testing is available as well as contact information for those with COVID concerns. 

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