COVID-19 numbers down in Finney County; vaccine administration continues

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram

COVID-19 numbers have decreased in Finney County.

Colleen Drees gave an update on the status of COVID-19 in the county at Monday's regular Finney County Commission meeting.

Drees said the positivity rate dramatically decreased to 22% for the week of Dec. 20-26, but it was a holiday week and the county had lower testing numbers.

Hospitalizations were also down that week with 14.

For the week of Dec. 13-19 there were a total of 180 positives with a 39% positivity rate and an average of 16 hospitalizations, Drees said.

"Overall we've seen a decrease in total number of cases but also a decrease in testing in our community," she said. "We're anticipating a slight increase here in the next couple of weeks and then we'll continue to monitor as we move through the flu season."

Drees also updated the county on the status of the COVID-19 vaccine within the county. Initially the health department received a shipment of 500 doses; however, 350 doses of those 500 had to be redistributed to the nine other counties in the southwest portion of the state, leaving 150 doses for Finney County.

The health department started working on administering the 150 doses to the health care professional field, health care personnel working with Genesis and St. Catherine to divide the responsibility of where it was spending time administering the vaccine.

Additionally they have given doses to several health agencies, medical offices, physical therapists and are now working with dental offices to give vaccine doses to dentists, dental hygienists and dental assistants this week, Drees said.

"We have a very limited amount of dosages remaining this week, so as we go through those, if we don't have another shipment this week we're going to have to hold until we have another shipment, of which I'm not really sure when that next shipment will be," she said. "There hasn't been a whole lot of confirmation from the state level of when we could expect every single shipment as those are sent out."

Each vaccine vial contains 10 doses of vaccine, and after it's opened, all 10 doses have to be used within six hours, Drees said. Because of this, the health department plans out where they will be administering the vaccine each day.

"We do off-sites at specific businesses, go there, expect a certain number of dosages to be administered at those different agencies and we come back in the afternoons and then we usually have like an on-call, on-hold list and then we start working on the on-hold list to then come to the health department to do a drive-up method to get those last few to make sure that we expend through all those vials," she said.

Drees said it would be beneficial for businesses to give the health department a confirmed number of staff who want to be vaccinated when the health department calls to set up a time to administer the vaccine.

"We've had some agencies that people have changed their minds, totally understandable, or not everybody chooses to get the vaccine at the same time," she said. "But having that confirmed number then helps us then plan for dosages that day, so we make sure to expend all doses available in the vials."

Vaccinations at retirement facilities does not take place through the health department, but through a separate vaccine stream, Drees said. The state has contracted CVS and Walgreens to administer vaccines to long-term care facilities and group living.

"My understanding was these shipments of vaccines were to follow those original plans of long-term care facilities and group living first and then open up to 75 and older, medically compromised and then in the next it's 65 and older and medical compromised," she said.

Vaccinations at Ranch House Senior Living for residents and staff members began on Monday and came from Walgreens, according to a news release from Ranch House. 

Walgreens plans to administer the initial doses of the vaccine on site and will return on Jan. 25 to administer the second dose, which is required for the vaccine to be fully effective. A third clinic is planned for Feb. 15 to ensure new residents are also vaccinated.

Distribution of the vaccine to states has been troublesome, Drees said. She is expecting distribution to be similar to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when Kansas was one of the last states to receive supplies.

In other business, the SPARK program was extended by the state of Kansas through March 1.

The commission voted unanimously to extend the Household Emergency Relief Grant Program with the SPARK program for a total of $250,000 for six months.

Colleen Drees, Finney County Health Department director, talks with those gathered for a meeting at the Finney County Fairgrounds in April.