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Missouri Moves Up COVID-19 Vaccination Timeline, Deaths Tick Up In Kansas And Missouri

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Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3
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A healthcare worker at Truman Medical Center in Kansas City takes information from a man seeking a drive-through COVID test recently.

Missouri health officials announced that more vaccines will be available this month for long-term care residents and "forward facing" health care workers, meaning those who interact with patients.

Health care workers and nursing home residents in Missouri should be able to be vaccinated against the coronavirus this month, health officials announced Friday, even as case numbers and deaths ticked up in Missouri and Kansas.

Calling it "groundbreaking news," Dr. Randall Williams, director of the MIssouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said his office is now expecting to have enough doses in December for all health care workers and long term care residents and staff. They will require a follow-up dose to be administered in 2021.

"That's incredibly exciting because with that amount alone, we should be able to move through all of our long-term care facility residents, staff and forward-facing health care providers," he said.

Further, Williams said a full roll-out of the vaccinations could happen by summer.

"We feel like by July or August we will be able to vaccinate anyone in Missouri who wants a vaccine," he said.

The announcement marks a moving-up of plans announced the day before, when officials said they would have some 220,000 doses available and could finish with long-term care residents and health care workers by mid-January.

Missouri reported Friday that 89 people died of the coronavirus in the last seven days, a figure that has ticked upward this week, according to the state's dashboard. In all, 4,122 Missouri residents have died of COVID-19.

In Kansas, COVID-19 cases rose another 15,000 in the last week, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported on Friday. That brings the total number of cases to 168,295 and total deaths to 1,786 in Kansas, according to a state website.

Even as businesses in the Kansas City area continue to operate under a stricter set of restrictions, earlier this week the Centers for Disease Control and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced options for 7- or 10-day quarantine periods.

The Unified Government Public Health Department said Thursday that Wyandotte County will be sticking with a longer, 14-day quarantine.

“It can take up to 14 days after exposure to the virus for someone to develop COVID-19. That has not changed,” said Elizabeth Groenweghe, chief epidemiologist with the United Government. “Reducing the quarantine timeline could increase the risk for further COVID-19 spread in our community.”

The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment announced Thursday that it will be adopting the new CDC guidelines. Under the guidance, if someone tests negative five days or more after exposure and has no symptoms, they must quarantine for 7 days. If someone doesn’t after being exposed, but they have no symptoms, they must quarantine for 10 days.

Meanwhile, Kansas City business and health leaders on Friday asked residents to help them keep their doors open by doing their holiday shopping locally — and safely.

“This could be a busy holiday shopping weekend. We know people are concerned, and that all makes sense, but there are ways to stay safe,” said Dr. Steven Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health system.

At the daily briefing hosted by the University of Kansas Health System on Friday, officials announced that numbers had stabilized, with 87 patients having active COVID-19 cases. Of that number, 46 are in the intensive care unit and 30 are on ventilators.

Local businesses say they are getting creative to keep customers safe and those numbers down while still keeping their doors open.

Strawberry Swing, an annual indie craft festival that usually attracts more than 20,000 people and 150 vendors to Union Station, had to make a change of plans in order to celebrate its 10th anniversary this year.

“What we did was we worked with the Missouri arts council to get a COVID plan approved so what we've done is moved it outdoors," said organizer Katie Mabry van Dieren. "We are now Kansas City's first open-air holiday market."

The festival now has 45 vendors in socially-distanced tents selling their wares every weekend in December. Organizers are also taking additional safety precautions screening and counting anyone who enters the festival.

Given the number of cases in the area, some businesses have decided to completely ditch in-person shopping.

North Kansas City made the decision to cancel its annual Snake Saturday Parade earlier this year, an event considered to be the biggest in that neighborhood. Centered around St. Patrick's Day, the event may be cancelled again this year, said Joe Gauer, co-founder of RiverNorth, a league of two dozen local businesses in downtown North Kansas City.

“It's like Black Friday for North Kansas City, he said, "and it's looking like for a second year in a row, we'll be going without that parade, which is just devastating news for the local bars and restaurant owners here."

Wyandotte County joined North Kansas City in calling on residents to support their local businesses.

“We know that the pandemic has really impacted small and local businesses, and we really urge the community, if you're going to do any shopping or go out to eat, please go to local businesses during this time in a safe way,” said Daniel Silva, president of the Kansas City, Kansas, Chamber of Commerce.

KCUR reporter Alex Smith contributed to this report.

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