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Kansas AG Schmidt petitions against Biden’s vaccine mandate for health workers

TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is calling on the Biden administration to withdraw its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers and all related guidance.

Schmidt argues that the mandate violates the rights of workers and the authority of states.

“CMS’s objective is to coerce the unvaccinated workforce into submission or cause them to lose their livelihoods,” the attorneys general wrote. “If CMS succeeds in coercing states to enforce the IFR against their own citizens, these healthcare workers will lose their jobs (or not return if they already have), states will lose frontline healthcare workers, providers, suppliers, and services, and America’s most vulnerable populations will lose access to necessary medical care.”

Officials say the petition is the latest action taken by Schmidt to push back against the Biden administration’s insistence on a one-size-fits-all approach to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click here to learn more.

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Illinois recommends statewide mask usage yet again

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The State of Illinois is once again asking citizens to mask up beginning Friday, October 21.

Previously, the state encouraged only non-vaccinated citizens to mask up; now, the wording has changed to include all citizens.

“All individuals, including those who are fully vaccinated, are recommended to wear a face covering consistent with CDC guidance,” according to the most recent COVID-19 Executive order.

Governor JB Pritzker says the new regulation is a recommendation rather than a requirement.

Illinois lifted its mask-requiring mandate on February 28.

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How Kansas retailers can prepare for a new COVID relief program

TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas Small Business Owners should prepare for the latest property tax relief program, according to Governor Laura Kelly.

Kelly announced today that her administration will launch the application process for the “COVID-19 Retail Storefront Property Tax Relief” program in October.

But before you can be part of this new program, your small business has to have a federal Unique Entity Identifier (UEI).

“The financial assistance provided through this program will give Kansas entrepreneurs resources to continue to grow and invest in their businesses,” said Governor Laura Kelly. “Proactively verifying UEI registration will help small business owners receive this relief quickly and efficiently once the program’s application portal opens in October.”

In June, Governor Kelly signed bipartisan House Bill 2136, investing $50 million to help small businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The bill enacts the COVID-19 Retail Storefront Property Tax Relief Act (Act) to provide for claims for refunds to be paid for tax years 2020 and 2021 for certain claimants that were operationally shut down or restricted at their retail storefront by a COVID-19-related order or action imposed by the State, a local unit of government, or a local health officer.” – HB 2136

The COVID-19 Retail Storefront Property Tax Relief Program is funded through the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which requires a UEI registration to be completed for a business to be eligible to receive assistance. UEI registration ensures the accuracy of information and the security of funding being used for this program. That’s according to Kelly’s Office.

UEI Registration

The UEI is a unique 12-character identifier assigned to all entities and is used as the primary means of entity identification for Federal awards and for those doing business with the federal government. Governor Kelly’s Office states, “The UEI is issued at no cost through the federal System for Award Management website (SAM.gov).”

If a business is already registered in SAM.gov, no additional action is needed to obtain a UEI. UEI registration can be confirmed by logging into SAM.gov and verifying that the business’ Entity Status states “Active Registration.”

Kelly’s Office adds, “Please note that due to recent increases in the number of entities registering with SAM.gov it may take up to 25 business days for new registrations to be processed. For any issues related to registering with SAM.gov or obtaining a UEI the Federal Service Desk can be reached at 866-606-8220.”

Information detailing the application process and dates for the COVID-19 Retail Storefront Property Tax Relief Program is forthcoming from the Kansas Department of Revenue. The application will provide definitions, explain the assistance process in detail, and will specify exactly what information must be submitted in support of the application.

Claimants will have until April 15, 2023, to file an application for this financial assistance.

Kansas Sales Tax and COVID-19 Retail Storefront Act, HB 2136

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Local hospital rations COVID tests to stay prepared

JOPLIN, Mo. – Patients adjust to post-pandemic COVID, which includes knowing where they can continue getting tests. Not all medical facilities will give residents a test on the spot.

KOAM’s Keri Worthen spoke with Mercy Hospital in Joplin today. The hospital is staying prepared by rationing their COVID tests. Unless you are symptomatic or have a referral from your doctor, Mercy’s Emergency Room is directing people to go to outpatient testing sites.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jesse Hatfield says this is to make sure there are enough tests for critically ill patients. “So I wouldn’t say that there is a strict criteria where if they meet this we test them emergently. It’s really a truly patient-by-patient basis and sometimes it comes into play with what our supply chain looks like right now.”

You can find ongoing testing sites in your area with the resources listed below.

Testing Sites

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Oklahoma reminds reminds residents to stay safe while COVID begins to rise

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla – As COVID-19 transmission continues across the state, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reminds residents of the tools provided for protection.

“One of the best things you can do if you are symptomatic is to test and stay home,” says Keith Reed, Commissioner of Health. “Taking these precautions will help reduce community transmission. Additionally, there are tools available you can choose to use to protect yourself including good handwashing, testing, vaccination and wearing a mask in high-risk areas. Effective treatments are also available, including antiviral medications and antibody treatment.”

The state has ample supply of vaccine and anti-viral medication. At-home COVID-19 tests are available for purchase at various retail outlets or free through the USPS. On-site testing is also available throughout the state.

Oklahoma provides the following tools for residents:

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WalletHub: Kansas #1 of “Safest States During COVID-19”

KANSAS – WalletHub ranks Kansas #1 of the “Safest States During COVID-19” pandemic.

The financial service states around 67% of the population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and new cases are on a general downward trend since the start of the year. So, WalletHub today released updated rankings for the “Safest States During COVID-19.” You can see a map ranking each state below, or click here.

Oklahoma is ranked #20, Missouri is ranked #24 and Arkansas is ranked #31.

Source: WalletHub

How did WalletHub Rank the States?

In order to find out the safest states during the COVID-19 pandemic, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across five key metrics. The company’s data set includes the level of COVID-19 community transmission, the rates of positive testing, hospitalizations and death, as well as the share of the eligible population getting vaccinated.

You can find the full list and more about WalletHub’s methodology here.

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Covid vaccines greenlit for youngest children

JOPLIN, Mo.–Nationwide, infants, and toddlers will be up next in eligibility to get their Covid vaccines. The FDA and CDC both gave the green light for kids to get the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine on Saturday. State health departments in Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma have authorized kids aged six months to four years to get either a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Covid-19 vaccines are now available to children as young as six months old, but it may be a while before local kids can get them.

“We have, pediatric patients that have, different types of chronic illnesses. So this just creates that level of protection and safeguard, if you will, for our patients and whose parents who maybe are concerned about that,” said Jessica Liberty, manager of infection prevention at Freeman Health System.

Freeman pediatricians have already been getting calls about the vaccine for kids, and while they don’t have any available yet, they are ready to answer any questions parents may have.

“It was just recently approved. We do know that, you know, if you are a parent who would like your kid to be vaccinated for Covid, or if you have some questions about it, you know, your best route would be to call your pediatrician and to talk to them…here in the next few weeks, Freeman will be meeting to discuss options available for the community for giving their pediatric vaccine.”

Liberty says they aren’t seeing many kids hospitalized due to Covid, and these vaccines just add another layer of protection. 

“We have not in the very recent past had any admissions that were pediatric age. So that’s really encouraging to see those that have Covid at this point are recovering at home…when you get vaccinated, not only are you protecting yourself, but you’re also protecting other special loved ones that maybe are at higher risk.”

Liberty added that with masking easing up, she recommends talking with your pediatrician about the vaccine. 

Extra: Children age 6 months and up are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccination in Missouri

(JEFFERSON CITY, MO) – The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has adopted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation for children down to 6 months of age to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. The CDC’s recommendation was made after analyzing substantial data from clinical trials involving thousands of children, confirming the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness for children in this age group. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for children down to 6 months of age on June 17.

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine: Now authorized to be given to children ages 6 months-4 years in three doses, with a 3-week interval between the first two doses, followed by a third dose at least 8 weeks after the second dose.
Moderna vaccine: Now authorized to be given to children 6 months-5 years in two doses with 28 days between the two doses.
Previously, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized for use in individuals ages 5 and older, and the Moderna vaccine was authorized for those 18 and older. The Moderna vaccine for those ages 6-17 is scheduled for discussion among members of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on June 23.

There have been over 2 million confirmed cases of COVID among children 6 months through 4 years of age, according to CDC data. Of those cases, over 200 children have died after contracting the virus. COVID-19 is the fifth most common cause of death in children under age 5.

Missourians are encouraged to stay up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines to ensure maximum protection. Sufficient supplies of vaccines are available throughout the state.

Missouri providers who pre-ordered vaccines for children down to 6 months of age are listed at MOStopsCovid.com, and Vaccines.gov will soon list locations on an interactive map where vaccines are available. Those who ordered Pfizer-BioNTech are experiencing manufacturer delivery delays. Contact the provider before arriving. You can also text your ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you.

 

 

 

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Wastewater used to detect viruses throughout Missouri

NEWTON COUNTY, Mo.–Researchers at the University of Missouri have been using wastewater samples throughout the pandemic to gain a better insight of what Covid-19 cases look like throughout the state.

Now, it’s being used to see what other illnesses are present in our communities as well.

It may seem a little gross…but it may also be the easiest way to detect the spread of various viruses. 

“Poop doesn’t lie, so we can always figure out what’s really going on”, said Marc Johnson. “I mean, we we can’t really see the future. But if a new lineage moves into a sewer shed that is highly contagious, without an icon, we could say very reliably, you’re going to see an increase because this guy is more contagious than what was there before.”

Johnson, a professor at the University of Missouri’s School of Medicine has been working on the Sewer shed project since May 2020. The team of wastewater operators throughout Missouri collects samples to send to Johnson’s office.

“We take this little sample that we extract the RNA from, just like you would in a clinical lab. And we use qPCR the same kind of PCR tests that you use to test if you’re infected. The only difference is we do it in such a way that we can say not only whether it’s present, but how much it’s present.”

The testing has already helped out local health departments, like Newton County’s generate a better understanding of diseases present in the community.

Larry Bergner, administrator for the Newton County Health Department says the reports he receives of the watershed testing provide a helpful overview of community virus levels.

“I can kind of anticipate what’s coming,” Bergner said.

He says it could be helpful when dealing with other endemic diseases as well.

“Any virus can be tested in the sewer shed. So whether it’s Flu or any other type of virus, the Avian Bird Flu, some of those other types that we’ve seen through the years. We’re starting to get technology where we can kind of see that in the sewer shed and then we can anticipate and prepare for it. It is very helpful tool,” said Bergner.

The way samples are collected could paint a clearer picture of what’s actually spreading throughout communities.

“This isn’t the only read out that health departments get, but it’s a good, reliable one. One that’s not affected by your typical factors,” Johnson said. 

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Bill protects doctors who prescribe 2 controversial drugs

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri lawmakers pass a bill to help protect doctors who prescribe ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.

The bill would prohibit the medical licensing board from disciplining doctors who prescribe the drugs. It would also bar pharmacists from questioning doctors who prescribe the drugs.

“PHYSICIAN AND PHARMACIST PRESCRIPTION AND DISPENSATION OF IVERMECTIN AND HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE (Sections 334.100 and 338.055)

This bill prohibits the State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts from taking administrative action against a certificate of registration or authority, permit, or license required by this Chapter for any person due to the lawful dispensing, distributing, or selling of ivermectin tablets or hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets for human use in accordance with prescriber directions. A pharmacist cannot contact the prescribing physician or the patient to dispute the efficacy of ivermectin tablets or hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets for human use unless the physician or patient inquires of the pharmacist about the efficacy of ivermectin tablets or hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets.”

The provision is in a larger bill involving professional licensing. Both chambers passed the bill. It now heads to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk.

Republican Sen. Rick Brattin says he added the amendment because some doctors are worried they could lose their medical licenses for prescribing the drugs. That’s according to the Kansas City Star.

Some doctors prescribe the drugs to help treat COVID-19, but it quickly became a controversial topic across the U.S. While the FDA has not approved ivermectin for treating COVID-19, they have authorized the drug for humans to treat certain infections and skin conditions.

You can read the approved bill below, or click here.

Missouri House Bill 2149T

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Local health department weighs in on White House warning of possible COVID surge

PITTSBURG, Kan. – On Friday, the White House issued a warning about a possible surge in COVID cases this fall and winter. We spoke with the Crawford County Health Department about their thoughts on a possible surge and if they’re ready.

Teddi Van Kam with the Crawford County Health Department says they’re prepared should a potential surge in COVID cases happen. She says they have a Continuity Of Operations Plan, or “COOP” which keeps them prepared for any kind of disaster or outbreak. They also have other contingencies. Van Kam says “The nice thing is that we do have agreements with other agencies and programs so that if we did reach what we call a surge capacity that we could initiate, pull more people in.”

Van Kam says if a surge were to happen, she feels it’s less likely to be as serious as previous surges. “We have the advantage now of having numerous people vaccinated, so that makes a difference as well as there are different treatments available, there’s oral treatments, there’s IV treatments, so physicians and other care providers have a lot of tools in their tool belt to use.”

And thanks to those resources, she says it’s likely the health department’s role in a surge would be a little different. “If we were to see a lot more cases, if that were to happen, probably one of our big roles would be testing people and giving, administering vaccine.”

Van Kam feels another thing that would contribute to a less severe surge, is the public. She says they’re more familiar with what’s going on and what to do should COVID hit them. “When people aren’t mandated to things that often, when it’s of their own decision, they’re making the decision for themselves and their families, that they are often more likely to really do what’s right and what’s needed versus feeling like they’re being pressured.”

Future funding for a possible COVID surge has also come up at the federal level. Van Kam says in a worse case scenario, the health department has grants it can utilize to help fund necessary resources.