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County COVID case numbers decline, testing site moves

Chad Frey
The Kansan

The week of Christmas the Harvey County Health Department identified 127 new cases of COVID-19, and as of Dec. 28 had 256 known, active cases in the county. 

With 1,941 recoveries since the pandemic began and 146 Christmas week, the current case load is down 20 patients. 

But there is still concern. 

"Newton Medical Center is reporting they are full. That does not mean all of those people are from Harvey County," said Lynette Redington, director of the Harvey County Health Department."They have staff that are getting tired, getting fatigued, as you can imagine with this daily grind. The more we can keep folks out of hospitals, great." 

As of Dec. 28, the health department reported 15 hospitalizations, with eight new hospitalizations the seek of Dec. 21. There have been 27 deaths since the pandemic began — with one new death the week of Dec. 21.

The Health Department regularly monitors the health of active cases, as well as follows up on all close contacts.

Individuals that meet recovery criteria have either went 10 days past the onset date of symptoms or 72 hours fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medicine – whichever criteria is longer. Additional local statistics can be found at www.harveycounty.com/covid19stats.

Vaccinations

We have been active with our Fire/EMS and first responders.  

Newton Medical Center and Health Ministries has received vaccine and been vaccinating staff on a voluntary basis.  

"We are working to get larger facilities like Prairie View," Redington said. "There will be a clinic [at Health Ministries Clinic] on Saturday to get more of the healthcare workers through."

Redington said Newton Medical Center has used up the initial doses sent by Pfizer. The Health Department and Health Ministries have a supply of a vaccine by Moderna.

It is believed that it will take the month of January to get health care workers immunized.

Orders of the vaccine go through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Vaccinations in area long term care facilities should be starting soon. 

"We know of one building that has [vaccine] and is preparing for that to happen," Redington said. 

It is unclear when vaccines will be available to the general public — only that the state is working to have phase I vaccinations complete by the end of January. The state's vaccine plan calls for providing shots first to front-line health care workers, nursing home workers and nursing home residents. Some essential and governmental workers are part of the first phase as well. 

It is not known when the vaccine will be available to the general public. 

"They have not given us [that information]," Redington said. "The closest that we have is that we will be through phase I of the Kansas plan by the end of January. That is all we know at this point."

Redington did say that when the vaccine becomes widely available, the Health Department will operate a point of distribution — something the department has trained for in the past. 

"We are ready at the Health Department to set up our point of distribution," Redington said. 

WellHealth testing site to move to Chisholm Trail Center

The WellHealth COVID-19 drive-through testing site will change locations later this week, moving to the parking lot of the Chisholm Trail Center, 601 SE 36th St. in Newton.

The testing site will remain at its current location, Newton High School, through Dec. 30. It will open for testing at the Chisholm Trail Center beginning Dec. 31 at 11 a.m.

The site will maintain its regular hours of Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. However, the site will be closed Jan. 1 for the New Year’s Day holiday.

WellHealth has conducted more than 2,000 tests since opening its Newton location Dec. 4.

“It is especially important for people to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms during the holiday season,” Redington said. “There are several local providers that offer COVID-19 testing, and WellHealth only adds another beneficial resource to Harvey County.”

Appointments are recommended and encouraged to aid scheduling. However, those without appointments can be tested. Appointments can be scheduled through WellHealth’s website, www.gogettested.com.

Testing is open to all individuals, regardless of county of residence. The site will test symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. Testing will be filed through an insurance provider if available, but is free to those who do not have insurance.

WellHealth conducts saliva-based testing. Individuals can remain in their vehicle throughout the testing process.

Results are expected within 48-96 hours after testing, with notification of results sent by WellHealth to the individual through SMS or email.

The testing site is a partnership between WellHealth and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.