While COVID-19 conditions in area are improving, doctors urge vaccinations as cases increase in other states

People should get their COVID-19 vaccinations, practice good social distancing and wear their masks, Dr. Marissa Love, a specialist in allergies and immunology, said at Wednesday morning’s news conference at the University of Kansas Health System.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control at the University of Kansas Health System, said that he is concerned that there could be another surge in COVID-19 cases.

Many states are already showing an increase in cases, but Kansas case rates continue to decline. As some states relax their COVID-19 rules, he is concerned that there may be another surge, he said.

Dr. Hawkinson urged people to get vaccinated as soon as they can. Those being vaccinated should be fever-free for 24 hours, otherwise it is all right to get the vaccination if you’re on antibiotics, he added.

“I hope we can vaccinate our way out of this pandemic,” he said.

This continues to be a disease affected by people’s behavior, he said. The doctors’ advice may be different in a month or in June, but right now people can’t let their guard down, he added.

People need to continue to be vigilant and continue to mask and socially distance, according to Dr. Hawkinson.

Dr. David Wild, vice president of performance improvement, said mitigation strategies remain just as important as before. Regardless of whatever policy decisions are made, people should remember they have some control themselves even if there is not a policy or a mask mandate, according to Dr. Wild. People can wear a mask even in places where there isn’t a mandate.

He said there are some areas that are seeing new variant cases, mostly the UK variant B 1.1.7. There is a growing concern there might be increased severity related to that strain in some areas, he added. Some wastewater tests have shown the variant is in Kansas.

From a state and county perspective, borders are artificial when it comes to how people travel and how disease spreads, he said.

“We should be worried about the impact,” he added.

They are seeing populations across the world, including France and South America, where variant cases are increasing rapidly, mirroring the previous surge, according to Dr. Wild.

“Definitely there is a level of concern there,” he said.

The doctors also discussed allergy season.

Dr. Love, an allergist, said with allergy season here, there are some ways to tell the difference between allergy symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms.

A few symptoms overlap, she said, and those include congestion, runny nose and potentially the loss of smell.

Allergic symptoms or hay fever often include itchy eyes, itchy nose, and sneezing along with symptoms, she said.

COVID-19 more commonly includes fevers, severe fatigue, really bad headaches especially in the back of the head, and diarrhea, she said.

She also said people taking antihistamines for allergies do not need to stop taking them when they get the COVID-19 vaccine. The antihistamines do not interfere with the immune response, she said. Those who have more questions about whether their illness is an allergy or something else may contact an allergist for information specific to them.

The doctors also discussed a news report that Pfizer vaccine is 100 percent effective in a trial involving kids between 12 and 16. While the doctors will be waiting to see the full data, Dr. Wild said the study group had no documented infection among those who received the vaccine, while there were 18 infections in those who didn’t get the vaccine.

It’s great news, he said, and he cautioned that people shouldn’t expect any vaccine to be 100 percent effective.

The percentage of children who get vaccinated will have to be more than 58 percent – a number suggested by a recent survey – in order to achieve herd immunity, he said.

Dr. Hawkinson said if there is any way to prevent the multi-inflammatory process in children, it will be good. The vaccine will need to go through data analysis, then be approved for emergency use authorization, before being available for children, he said. Vaccine supply is also important, he added.

The more people who are vaccinated, the better, he said. Children can spread the disease, too, he added.

COVID-19 case numbers reported

The University of Kansas Health System reported 10 active COVID-19 patients on Wednesday morning, an increase of three from Tuesday, according to Dr. Hawkinson. Of the 10 patients, two were in the intensive care unit, the same as Tuesday. One patient was on a ventilator, no change since Tuesday. There were another 13 COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized but are out of the acute infection phase, a decrease of two snce Tuesday. There is a total 23 patients, an increase of one from Tuesday.

Wyandotte County reported an increase of seven COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, March 31, from Tuesday, March 30, for a cumulative 18,070 cases. There was a cumulative total of 286 deaths reported, an increase of one since Tuesday. On Wednesday, Wyandotte County reported that 17.9 percent of the residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, for a total of more than 29,600. About 9.5 percent of Wyandotte County residents have completed their vaccinations.

The Mid-America Regional Council’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 164,077 cumulative COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. The daily average of new hospitalizations was 63. The number of cumulative deaths was 2,331.

The state of Kansas reported 302,372 cumulative COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, March 31, an increase of 510 cases since Monday. There were a total cumulative 4,913 deaths reported, an increase of 11 deaths. According to the KDHE, there were a cumulative 56,159 cases in Johnson County, and a cumulative 54,799 cases in Sedgwick County on Wednesday.

The Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard on Wednesday night reported 30,459,874 cases in the United States, with 552,072 total deaths reported nationwide. According to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 website, total cases were trending slightly down on Wednesday, while total deaths were trending slightly up. The states with the largest case increases on Wednesday were Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida and New Jersey.

Vaccinations available Thursday

The Unified Government Health Department has launched a new self-scheduling tool for COVID-19 vaccinations, and people are now able to schedule their own vaccinations at their own convenience online.

The self-scheduling tool is at https://vaccines.wycokck.org/, or people may call 3-1-1 to make an appointment. More information is at https://wyandotteonline.com/ug-health-department-launches-new-self-scheduling-tool-for-covid-19-vaccinations/.

Residents 16 and older may either walk in to get a free vaccine or may schedule an appointment. There are three Unified Government Health Department vaccination clinics.

The vaccination sites are open from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the former Kmart store at 7836 State Ave., the former Best Buy store at 10500 Parallel Parkway and the Kansas National Guard Armory at 100 S. 20th (near 18th and Ridge).

Those Wyandotte County residents in Phases 1 to 4 also may walk in to a Health Department vaccination site, or may sign up for a vaccination at WycoVaccines.org or call 3-1-1.

Those who walk in to get vaccines should bring an ID and something showing their Wyandotte County address, such as mail. For more information about vaccines at the UG Health Department, visit https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-vaccines-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/.

There are also pharmacies giving COVID-19 vaccinations in Wyandotte County by appointment, when available. These include Price Chopper and Hen House pharmacy at 76th and State Avenue, and 81st and State Avenue (see https://www.ballsfoodspharmacy.com/), and Medicine Shoppe pharmacy at 65th and Parallel by appointment when available (see https://www.facebook.com/The-Medicine-Shoppe-Kansas-City-281548241870522). CVS pharmacy also has announced that it will offer COVID-19 vaccines at one of its stores in Kansas City, Kansas. Registration is at CVS.com.

COVID-19 tests scheduled

Free COVID-19 tests are available from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, April 1, at Vibrant Health, Argentine location, 1428 S. 32nd St., Kansas City, Kansas. Appointments are not needed. This is part of the Wyandotte County Health Care Task Force initiative. People may get tested whether or not they have symptoms. Free groceries are given to those who get tested, while supplies last.

Unified Government Health Department COVID-19 testing and vaccine sites are scheduled to be open on Thursday, April 1. For more information, visit https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/pages/what-to-do-if-you-think-you-have-covid-19. To see if there is any change to the schedule, visit https://www.facebook.com/UGHealthDept.

The Health Department is offering saliva COVID-19 tests to the public. Tests from the Health Department are free for those who live or work in Wyandotte County.

The tests are open to asymptomatic people as well as those who have symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19. Check with the UG Health Department’s Facebook page to see if there have been any changes in the schedule. Bring something that shows that you live or work in Wyandotte County, such as a utility bill.

COVID-19 testing also is available at 8 a.m. Thursday at Lowe’s, 6920 State Ave., by appointment. The tests are listed on the Go Get Tested site
at www.gogettested.com/Kansas. The WellHealth tests need appointments, which can be made at the website.

The Health Department’s general contact page is at https://www.wycokck.org/Health/Contact.aspx. Their Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/UGHealthDept.

Testing sites are at https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/pages/what-to-do-if-you-think-you-have-covid-19.

Saliva testing is now offered at the UG Health Department. For more information, visit https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/02042021-ugphd-saliva-testing-available.pdf.

The doctors’ news conference is online at https://www.facebook.com/kuhospital/videos/491334295228632.

The University of Kansas Health System COVID-19 update page is at https://www.facebook.com/kuhospital/videos/292961702392386.

A weekly vaccine report for the state of Kansas is at

The UG COVID-19 webpage is at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information.

The KDHE’s COVID-19 webpage is at https://www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/.

The KC Region COVID-19 Hub dashboard is at https://marc2.org/covidhub/.

The Wyandotte County page on the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 website is at https://bao.arcgis.com/covid-19/jhu/county/20209.html.

The Johns Hopkins Data in Motion, a presentation on critical COVID-19 data in the past 24 hours, is at https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/covid-19-daily-video.

Homicide reported in 6400 block of Farrow

A shooting stemming from an argument outside a Kansas City, Kansas, home this afternoon led to a stray bullet taking the life of a neighbor.

According to a police spokeswoman, dispatchers received a call about a shooting around 3:15 p.m. and officers were dispatched to the area of 64th and Farrow.

When officers arrived, they found a deceased 50-year-old man inside his home, according to the spokeswoman. The initial investigation indicates an argument broke out among individuals in the yard of the victim’s neighbor.

When that argument escalated, the people involved exchanged gunfire, the spokeswoman stated.

A stray bullet from that exchange struck the victim, who was inside his home, according to the spokeswoman.

The Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department’s Major Case Unit is investigating. Anyone with information is asked to call the TIPS hotline at 816-474-TIPS, police stated.

New Aldi store to open Thursday on 110th

A new Aldi grocery store will open on Thursday at 1945 N. 110th St., Kansas City, Kansas, in The Legends Outlets.

Piper area residents have been asking for their own free-standing grocery store for a number of years, and finally one will open on Thursday, April 1, at The Legends Outlets.

Aldi will open a grocery store Thursday at 1945 N. 110th St., Kansas City, Kansas.

It will be the first free-standing grocery store at The Legends Outlets, also. The store is located to the west of Penney’s in the Legends area, near 110th and Parallel.

Until now, The Legends and Piper area only has had grocery aisles or departments in Walmart, Sam’s Club and Target. For a long time, residents of the area have driven to grocery stores near 81st and Parallel, 77th and State, Bonner Springs or across the county line into Basehor.

According to a Legends Outlets spokeswoman, the new Aldi at the Legends Outlets features environmentally friendly building materials.

It is almost double the size of an average Aldi store and will have open ceilings, natural lighting and 20,000 square feet of fresh groceries, according to the spokeswoman.

The store offers a curated selection of Aldi-exclusive brands, and Aldi is known for its affordability and reasonable prices, according to the spokesman.

More than 90 percent of the grocery store’s items are Aldi’s exclusive products.

The new location also will offer curbside pickup and grocery delivery, according to the spokeswoman.

Aldi operates another Kansas City, Kansas, grocery store at 48th and State Avenue.

According to the UG’s property records, the new Aldi store is in the Piper school district.

Aldi has about 2,000 stores in 37 states and is on track to become the third-largest grocery retailer by the end of 2022, according to the spokeswoman.

The Legends Outlets have more than 100 designer outlets, retail, dining and entertainment destinations, including the newly opened 1 Million Cuts Barber Studio, Sephora, Puma and Tory Burch outlet stores.

Hours of the new store will be 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Sunday.