News to Know (6/23/2021)

WASHINGTON – The U-S will fall short of President Biden’s goal to have 70-percent of adults vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 4th. The White House downplayed the deadline but noted a pressing need to increase the vaccination rate, especially for people under the age of 30. (Biden outlines vaccine plan, set to miss global-sharing goal)

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Police are looking for video evidence after a shooting that left three people dead and four others injured in Saint Louis. Two victims were found dead outside of a convenience store Monday night. A third person apparently collapsed in a nearby schoolyard. Police describe those three victims as adult men in their thirties. There’s no word yet on the condition of the injured victims. The motive is still unclear. Officers have been canvassing the city’s Ville neighborhood for video evidence of the incident

OKLAHOMA COUNTY, Okla. – An Oklahoma inmate is back in custody after he was accidentally released nearly two months ago from the Oklahoma County Detention Center. Administrators with the detention center were first alerted Friday that 37-year-old Remundo Cuevas was accidentally released. Jail officials say they acted immediately and notified local authorities that have fugitive tax forces. The jail also put out a fugitive warrant for his arrest. Cuevas turned himself in after learning he was being looked for. Jail officials are now looking into what caused this issue.

BRANSON, Mo. – We now know the name of the 11-year-old boy who is in the hospital after being seriously injured on the Branson Coaster. He’s Aalondo Perry from Tennessee. Branson fire officials responded to a call at the Branson Coaster on the 76 Strip. Aalondo was trapped under the coaster. Aalondo’s grandmother,  Shelandra Ford, says Aalondo is blind in his right eye and 15 percent blind in his left. We have no official word on the cause of the accident, but Ford says he thought the ride had ended when it stopped on the tracks he stood up– and the ride started back up knocking him down. (12-year-old boy injured in Branson roller coaster accident)

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Freeman doctor educates residents on COVID-19 and the lessons learned

JOPLIN, Mo. – From how the coronavirus spreads and the symptoms that come with it, to the long term impacts and the knowledge that’s brought about the evolution of treatments.

“This past 18 months has been all about this grand experiment of trying to find out what are effective treatments, and what is a waste of time.” says Dr. Rob McNab, a physician at Freeman Health System who was the director of the hospital’s COVID unit.

Healthcare professionals like Dr. McNab have learned a lot about the virus over the last 18 months. And Tuesday, he’s passing that information on to residents who participate in Freeman Advantage, a wellness program for residents 50 and older, like Marjorie Ellis.

“I have known some (people) that have passed away, and so you know that makes you very conscientious I guess you could say about the disease,” says Ellis.

“We all recognize that this is a very infectious disease. The new Delta variant is multiple times more infectious than the original. If you’re an elderly person and, or, if you have significant health problems, you’re at the very highest risk to have a really severe infection. And that, obviously, can be life threatening,” says McNab. “So in talking to the advantage group, if any of them have vaccine hesitancy we can talk about that and address it.”

Even with slews of information being available online and otherwise, McNab says it’s still important to talk about even the basics.

“Some of it’s accurate, and some of it’s inaccurate,” says McNab. “And I think that the most important thing for me is to talk to people that are.. who I would describe as vaccine hesitant. They’re not against vaccinations, but they’re cautious. And rightly so. How can you make good decisions with poor information?”

He hopes that the accurate information he gets to the group will spread as they have conversations with friends and family. Something that’s especially important as vaccinations slow, hospitalizations increase, and the delta variant of the virus spreads in the four-states.

“That’s the best way, word of mouth, to be able to get good information out to the community. Because if you are at high risk, and you’re hesitant to get that vaccine, you’re the person that I really want to find and talk to,” says McNab.

More information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Related stories: https://www.koamnewsnow.com/covid-19-delta-variant-emerging-in-kansas-and-missouri/


Covid-19 Delta variant emerging in Kansas and Missouri

NEWTON COUNTY, Mo. & CRAWFORD COUNTY, Ks. –Coronavirus cases are starting to increase again in Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas.

The Crawford county health department says they are also starting to see an emergence of the delta variant.

“We have started to see some variants, the one of concern for us is the delta variant and not because it’s more dangerous because it makes the virus more transmissible,” said Teddi Van Kam with the Crawford County Health Department.

She says this variant makes it even more important to be vaccinated against the virus.

 “We want people to be aware, we have had seven verified cases since June first that had the delta variant, and so it is here and we just want people to be aware of that fact and to reconsider becoming vaccinated,” Van Kam said.

In Newton county, they have two confirmed cases of the delta variant and first found out the variant was in the county through the sewage water.

“Have been testing of the wastewater, sewage system, and they have found some of the variants in the watershed, the sewers water, and so don’t know if that means there’s going to be an uptick in those particular variants it just really shows us that covid is here in all of its forms,” said administrator Larry Bergner.

Marc Johnson, a professor at the University of Missouri says they have been collecting water samples throughout the state since last July.

“Starting in July of last year we started just collecting wastewater samples from many different places throughout the state and just using them to measure how much SARS Covid 2 was in the wastewater,” Johnson said.

In Newton County, that’s been in Joplin and Neosho. Johnson says this method of testing is more efficient.

“With the wastewater, we get a pretty rapid readout and it’s not only rapid but it’s also more comprehensive. so you may get a person who tested positive for the India variant…so the beautiful part is it doesn’t matter if they got tested or not, as long as they are pooping in their toilet, we’ll be able to detect if they were infected,” Johnson said.


BJC, Washington U. to require vaccinations for employees

ST. LOUIS – Two of the largest employers in the St. Louis area have announced they will require employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by fall. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that BJC HealthCare and Washington University both announced the vaccination requirements on Tuesday. The announcement comes at a time when demand for vaccines is waning in Missouri, a state that already lags behind the national average in COVID-19 immunization rate. The St. Louis region’s three other major health systems – SSM Health, Mercy and St. Luke’s Hospital – have not issued vaccine requirements but say they are discussing the issue.


Delta variant blamed for southwest Missouri virus increase

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Health officials in the Springfield area say the faster-spreading Delta variant is the primary cause of an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the region.

Kendra Findley is a health investigator for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. Findley says the increasing cases and random testing of virus samples have confirmed the more infectious variant is spreading quickly in Greene County, and in much of southwest Missouri.

Administrators at the two largest hospital in the Springfield-Greene County region are urging people to get vaccinated. In Greene County, 36% of the population has initiated vaccination. In most surrounding counties the figure is below 30%.



Joplin Health Dept. reports 132nd Covid-related death

Release from the City of Joplin:

JOPLIN, Mo. – The Joplin Health Department is sad to report the death of a Joplin resident with coronavirus being a significant condition contributing to the death. This announcement brings the total count to 132 deaths in Joplin. The resident was an 83-year-old female.

City statistics are listed on the COVID-19 dashboard at www.joplinmo.org/coronavirus . The dashboard is a collaborative project of the Joplin Health Department and University of Missouri Extension Office’s “All Things Missouri”.

As Joplin Health Department continues to work with residents in our community, they remind everyone of the importance in taking self-care actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

If you are fully vaccinated, you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic. Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.

If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, you are encouraged to talk to your health care provider and find a vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick.

If you have a condition or are taking medications that weaken your immune system, you may NOT be fully protected even if you are fully vaccinated. Talk to your healthcare provider. Even after vaccination, you may need to continue taking all precautions, including social distancing and wearing a face mask in public.

The public is reminded to still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home and away from others. If you are experiencing symptoms, you should contact your health care provider for medical advice before presenting at their office. Testing information, as well as other COVID-related announcements can be found at www.joplinmo.org/coronavirus. More details about coronavirus is also listed at https://www.cdc.gov/ .

The reporting of Covid-19 related deaths from the City may be delayed due to the time it takes to acquire confirmation that the death meets the vital record case definition and lists Covid-19 as a contributing factor.



Lowering lumber prices


Sky high lumber prices caused by the pandemic have had an impact on Joplin’s Create N Sip Studios by making popular do-it-yourself wooden signs unaffordable.

“I would be offering a lot more wood classes. It’s really hard for me to keep up with the inventory on it to be able to offer it as often as I once was. And so it’s now mainly a specialty kind of class and offered to only private parties,” said Create N Sip’s owner, John Coleman.

But this could be a temporary situation for the art studio and others who rely on affordable lumber.

The Wall Street Journal reports that futures for July delivery ended Tuesday at almost $1,010 per thousand board feet, down 41% from the record of a bit over $1,711 which was reached in early May.

And as for the prices that distributors pay from sawmills, Fortune.com says that the cash price of lumber is down 20% from the all-time high set on May 28.

But the operation manager of Pittsburg’s Broadway Lumber warns consumers that won’t translate into an immediate price drop at your local lumber yard.

“The futures are (a prediction of) the future. The current prices will not reflect that immediately, obviously,” said Broadway Lumber Operation Manager Byron Boldrini.

But that doesn’t mean lower store prices won’t eventually come back to customers as the lumber market stabilizes, which is what Boldrini thinks is behind the current price and futures drop.

“It’s a calming down of events that have just skyrocketed over the last several months. Now, people are just becoming more cautious and a lot of large buyers have decided to take it easy and therefore, stabilize the price because the demand has gone down,” said Boldrini.

And if the market stays calm with lumber prices lowering at the lumber yard, wooden sign classes and a whole lot more will come back to Create N Sip.

“Once prices get down, I’ll be able to afford to offer up more of the projects that I used to and even add some of the ones that I thought about adding before this situation happened,” said Coleman.


Local health departments look back at pandemic response

PITTSBURG, Kan./NEOSHO, Mo. – More than a year into the pandemic local health departments are looking back at how their responses stacked up. We spoke with the Crawford County and Newton County Health Departments on what they’ve learned and how they feel they did.

Over the past 15 months, local health departments have been put front and center in the public’s eye due to the pandemic. We checked in with two of the many local health departments in our area to see how they feel about their response to the pandemic so far.

In Crawford County, Teddi Van Kam says for her, the biggest area to improve, was managing staffing. She created teams but feels it could have been better. “And I think I would have created that sooner and rotated people out a little bit sooner, because fatigue is one of your biggest enemies when you’re trying to work through a pandemic.”

In Newton County, Larry Bergner says his biggest obstacle was technology. “When we had the numbers spike rapidly we found that we needed more computer program space, more programs that would help us to file and track and enter the data into the computer systems.”

As time went on, both departments feel they got into the hang of things quickly. Van Kam says “In public health, you train for disasters all the time and it’s just part of being public health, so, we have a preparedness program and we have policies and procedures and we practice them.” Bergner adds “The health care community came together, we shared resources, we shared communication data, and that was a very good thing and it helped us get the resources out to the community much faster than otherwise would have been able to.”

Bergner is hopeful that not only will the communities see the value of the local health department, but those in positions of power will as well. “We certainly hope that they will see that there is a need to increase local budgets so that when we need those upgrades in technology or when we need to quickly provide more personnel to tackle the pandemic or what’s going on in the community, that we would have the funds available to do that.”

Both health departments want to remind residents that they have returned to providing the ‘normal’ services community members expect, like WIC, women’s health, and immunizations.


Child care services struggle to fill positions as worker shortage continues

JOPLIN, Mo. – “Now enrolling.” That’s what can be seen in big letters on the side of The Learning Tree Pre-school and Childcare in Joplin. It’s also something that owner Terra Smith wishes she could do right now — but she can’t. And it’s not because they’re at max capacity.

“I’ve turned people away because we just don’t have the staff to accommodate more kids right now,” explains Smith.

Smith explains that she’s tried for months to replace three positions that were vacated during the pandemic. Even after posting job openings everywhere that she can think of, she’s still not had any luck.

“This has never happened before. Normally I have so many applications that it’s hard to choose who to hire. Now I can’t get anybody in the door,” says Smith.

To stay within state regulations, she’s had to greatly reduce the number of kids they care for — which also cuts into revenue when they already run on slim margins.

“We can have 72 kids here. Right now we have 24,” says Smith. “We’ve been making it, but you know we’re struggling. We need kids.”

Just a few minutes away at Wee Tots Day Care Center, the situation isn’t quite as bad.

“I finally got someone hired, so she’ll be starting here shortly,” explains Marye Lallemand, owner of Wee Tots Day Care Center.

But the process to find even one person was much more difficult than she would have liked.

“We’d have several applicants, they called and set up an appointment… in one week we had four no shows,” says Lallemand.

She says that the main way they’ve made it is because of the dedication of the staff they do have. They’ve been pulling overtime and more weight any time someone has to be out sick or can’t make it.

“I owe a lot to them. And I appreciate them every day,” says Lallemand.

“It is a struggle and it’s hard, but we keep going cause this is what we want to do and this is what we love to do,” says Smith.

In Kansas, the non-profit Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas is working hard to help parents caught in the middle.

The agency is the parent resource center for the entire state, meaning they work to help parents find childcare options that will work for them, when they’re having a hard time on their own.

“We have a customized database of licensed childcare programs across the state. We put in all that information the parents provides to us, and generate a customized referral list so that they can make an informed decision,” says Reva Wywandis, Executive Director of Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas.

You can learn more about Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas at https://east.ks.childcareaware.org/


GOP ends COVID emergency in Kansas; Kelly sees ‘obstruction’

This morning, Senate President Ty Masterson announced the cancellation the Legislative Coordinating Council meeting.  A law enacted in late March required the legislative leaders to sign off on an extension. Masterson’s announcement means that the state of emergency will expire at the end of June 15, 2021. It’s been in place since March 2020.

Democrat Response

The governor’s chief of  staff says the state will no longer be able to use its National Guard to distribute vaccines or personal protective equipment. Democrats say addressing COVID-19 is “just going to be more difficult.”

Kelly accused Republicans of “political obstruction.” She said last week that she wanted the state of emergency to continue at least through August.

“A state disaster response has never been, and should not be, political,” Kelly said in a statement. She released the full thing on Twitter.

Republican Response

Six of the eight legislative leaders who were to meet Tuesday are Republicans. Top GOP senators’ opposed the extension.

President Masterson, Vice President Rick Wilborn and Majority Leader Larry Alley have issued the following joint statement:

“At last month’s LCC meeting, a majority of legislative leaders made it clear that June 15th was likely to be the end of the state of emergency – that after 15 months, it is time for Kansas to return to normal. As such, the LCC recommended the governor develop an exit strategy to end the emergency – however, after reviewing the governor’s letter, it appears the governor opted for an extension strategy.

“The legislature and the LCC have granted the governor every extension request over the last year, but the current circumstances surrounding COVID-19 no longer necessitate a statewide disaster emergency.  The governor has not provided adequate justification for the LCC to grant her request for yet another extension, and all remaining efforts related to COVID-19 can and should take place under our normal procedures. As such, the statewide disaster emergency will expire as planned.”

Lawrence said Kelly will find ways to keep addressing COVID-19. Top Republicans said she could manage the winding down of Kansas’ response without a state of emergency.

The Debate of an Extension

The governor and Republican lawmakers have been at odds over her administration’s response to the pandemic nearly since spring 2020. Republicans have created more limits on the governor’s power to keep the state of emergency in place.

Kelly sent top lawmakers a letter Friday outlining a plan to wind down emergency operations and said she would let seven executive orders expire.

The letter said Kelly would keep only two executive orders in place. One mandated that state-licensed nursing homes test their residents and staff regularly for COVID-19, and another granting temporary permission for medical personnel and students to give COVID-19 vaccinations.

Lawrence said if those expire, medical and nursing students and paramedics won’t be able to give COVID-19 shots. He said the state Department of Health and Environment might have the authority to issue nursing home testing.

He also said the state will lose $14.5 million a month in extra federal aid. That’s an average of $230 a month per household.

“Sixty-three thousand households in Kansas are going to be impacted by this decision very directly and pretty immediately,” Lawrence told reporters.

But top House Republicans said Kelly failed to make a strong case for continuing the state of emergency. They pointed out that she was letting most of her executive orders expire regardless.

“There are adequate medical personnel to meet the current demand for vaccines and the regular authority available to the governor under the laws of our state is sufficient to meet these needs,” House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., of Olathe; Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch, of Ottawa, and Majority Leader Dan Hawkins said in a statement.

Kelly wanted legislative leaders to approve a 30-day extension, through July 15, the maximum allowed at one time by law. Top lawmakers refused late last month to give Kelly the maximum extension. Republicans signaled that they did not plan to grant another one.

Covid-19 Vaccinations in Kansas

Meanwhile, COVID-19 immunizations in Kansas have declined since early April. They went from a peak average of 29,380 shots a day for the first seven days of that month, to 5,523 for the seven days ending Monday. That’s according to state Department of Health and Environment data.

The department said 43.3% of the state’s 2.9 million residents or about 1.26 million people had received at least one of two shots as of Monday. The state still had nearly 584,000 unused vaccine doses after asking for only 10.2% of its federal allocation last week.