COVID-19 hospitalizations rise as health department awaits more vaccines

Chad Frey
The Kansan

The Harvey County Health Department is awaiting new doses of a COVID-19 vaccine as hospitalizations at NMC Health have increased. 

Lynnette Redington, director of the Harvey County Health Department, reported Jan. 11 there were 24 people hospitalized at NMC Health for COVID-19. 

"That has definitely increased from last week when we were down in the teens," Redington said. 

A week ago there were 15 hospitalizations. As of Monday, there had been 29 deaths in Harvey County — two in the past week. 

The health department has exhausted about 200 doses of vaccine used to vaccinate first responders in the county. It is unsure when there will be more doses of the vaccine available. 

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment had told the county health department it would begin weekly shipments, but it is unclear whether that means new doses will arrive this week or next. 

The state is currently in Phase I of a five-phase plan to vaccinate Kansans. Those included in the first phase include medical workers, long-term care facilities and workers critical to the pandemic response.

Redington said the phases will move as a state, rather than at the county level. Phase 2 is persons 65 and older, first responders, grocery store workers, K-12 education workers, food processing workers, transportation workers and workers who supply critical services or materials for COVID-19 response. 

It is unknown when each of the next phases will begin. 

"This is strictly upon availability," said Harvey County Commissioner Randy Hague. "You can't put dates on it."

There have been calls to the health department and to county commissioners, asking about prospective waiting lists for vaccination. 

"People want to get on a call list, and that is just not going to work," said Commissioner Chip Westfall. "It is not what the state wants done. When we get to mass inoculations, we will announce it and the procedure. Please stand by."