PAOLA — The only reaction two Miami County couples had to the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination they received Friday, Jan. 29, at the Miami County Health Department was to smile.
While the smiles weren’t evident behind their masks, they were evident in the eyes of Louisburg couple Julie and Randy Newcomer and Spring Hill couple Roger and Vicki Stiles.
The Newcomers and Stiles were seated in a social-distanced waiting area for 15 minutes to ensure they did not have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. There were none.
Miami County Health Department vaccinated over 270 residents during the course of two clinics on Jan. 27 and Jan. 29, and more clinics are planned for the coming week.
To ensure the county is getting as many residents vaccinated as quickly and orderly as possible, the Miami County Health Department has launched a platform for residents to complete a survey at: https://miamicounty-miami-county-ks-health-dept.app.transform.civicplus.com/.
This form allows residents to indicate their interest in receiving the vaccine and will allow Miami County Health Department to prioritize based on the Kansas Vaccination Phases roll out, according to a news release issued by the health department Sunday, Jan. 31.
Individuals will be notified via telephone or email when appointments become available with instructions regarding how to schedule an appointment, the time and location, and what to bring with them, according to the release.
Completing this survey does not create an appointment or reserve a vaccine, but it will help planners identify which phase individuals qualify for and will help streamline the notification and scheduling process as more vaccine doses become available throughout the state and county, health department officials said.
“To prepare for your appointment visit: https://www.dispenseassist.net/Covid.html, fill out the online form and have it with you for your appointment time, or have it ready in case you are called in as a recipient on the “stand-by” list on short notice,” according to the release
For residents without access to a computer, a friend or family member can submit the interest form on their behalf, the department said. Residents who require additional assistance filling out the form can contact Miami County Health Department at (913) 294-2431. Staff or volunteers will assist individuals in filling out the form. Based on staff for any given day, a message may be left for assistance, and someone will return calls during business hours as quickly as they can, in the order in which the calls are received, according to the news release.
Appointments are staggered so there are no long lines snaking out the door of the health department. In fact, on Friday morning there were no lines anywhere in the department’s building during the vaccine clinic.
“The wait time was less than sixty seconds,” Miami County Nurse Epidemiologist Christena Beer said.
The Newcomers and Stiles said they were pleased with how efficiently the vaccine clinic was run. Their only wait was the time it took to cover the distance down the hallway to the two rooms set up for vaccinations.
“I thought it went very well,” Roger Stiles said. “I didn’t even feel the needle go in my arm.”
The Newcomers echoed those sentiments.
“It didn’t hurt at all,” Julie Newcomer said after Barbara Adams administered the dose and was applying a bandage on Julie’s arm where the stick occurred.
Both couples said they were looking forward to getting the second dose.
“I’m glad we could schedule our second appointment,” Randy Newcomer said. “We weren’t sure if we would be able to do that today.”
Some folks in the waiting area Friday acknowledged they have known family, friends or acquaintances that have contracted COVID-19, including some who were hospitalized and some who tragically died from the virus.
“It was a relief to get the shot,” Vicki Stiles said. “We have been a little nervous (about the possibility of contracting the virus).”
The Newcomers expressed relief too.
“We have been careful and have always worn our masks, even though Louisburg did not have a mask ordinance,” Randy Newcomer said.
Beer estimates approximately 11,000 Miami County residents could qualify for Phase 2, and between 3,500 to 4,500 additional vaccine doses are still needed from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) to complete the second phase.
During Phase 1, Miami County received approximately 300 doses a week from KDHE, Beer said.
The health department’s Phase 2 plan calls for vaccinating up to 300 to 500 people per week, Beer said.
“If more vaccine supplies would be made available in the future in a single allotment or on a consistent basis, we expect to have the ability to double or triple that amount by holding a mass vaccination clinic at an off-site location” Beer said.
Miami County entered Phase 2 Jan. 27, and the health department is going about the task of distributing COVID-19 vaccines among groups identified for Phase 2 who were not vaccinated in the first phase — residents 65 years and older, those who live and work in congregate settings, and high-contact essential workers.
“Given that everyone in Phase 2 is considered critical and a priority, Miami County will focus on equitable distribution to where each group identified will receive an allocation of doses every scheduled vaccination clinic through the health department,” Miami County Health Director Rita McKoon said in the news release. “We are hoping to have at least two vaccine clinics scheduled per week, and the number of people scheduled will be based on the amount of vaccine received from KDHE, as well as staff and volunteer availability on any given week.
“We understand that this means not every group will receive a large allocation of doses each week, but we feel this approach allows us to move through Phase 2 together as a community,” she said.
McKoon, director of the health department, said as doses become available in Miami County, they will be distributed equitably across the following groups:
McKoon told County Commission Chairman Rob Roberts scheduling is important and that a wait list has been established because the Moderna vaccine is only good for six hours once it has been thawed out.
McKoon and Beer said the health department is now acting as a hub for vaccine distribution to other qualified providers to eliminate confusion.
Beer reported the long-term care facilities in the county had received the vaccine.
That was good news to Roberts.
“It’s important we take care of those residents,” he said.
Roberts visited the department during the clinic on Friday. He told McKoon and Beer that getting vaccines in the arms of Miami County residents is the County Commission’s No. 1 priority, and he said that all of the county’s resources were at their disposal.
The first order of business was getting an online portal set up after more than 1,000 calls came it at the same time when the department started taking appointments Jan. 25 — causing the phone system to crash under the heavy call volume.
“We are creating this (Phase 2) plan to be as flexible as possible so we can respond in an equitable and timely manner to the amount of COVID-19 doses that Miami County receives in any given week, all while also considering the needs of the entire community, acknowledging that everyone in Phase 2 is a priority to us” Miami County Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Whelan said in the news release. “We understand that our residents are eager to be vaccinated, and that is a very good thing. With the very limited amount of doses that we are currently receiving, we encourage everyone to be patient as we work to vaccinate everyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccine.”
Roberts commended the health department staff for their tireless dedication. He acknowledged the long hours the staff is putting in to keep Miami County residents safe during the deadly pandemic.
Citing the excellent work of the health department in these uncertain and anxious times, Roberts said of McKoon, Beer and the rest of the staff: “You give us hope.”
PAOLA — Mark Whelan was busy on a cold morning in late January directing traffic inside a large room as pallets were wheeled across a floor where barred cells were once anchored in cement.
Legacy Contractors of Paola recently transformed the former Miami County Jail next to the courthouse on South Pearl Street into a county storage facility. The remodeled, freshly painted former jail is now home to pallets and pallets of personal protective equipment (PPE) which is available for local businesses at no cost.
“Supplies are available for any business based in Miami County,” said Whelan, emergency management coordinator with the Miami County Sheriff’s Office.
Whelan said any business that needs supplies can either email him at email@example.com, or use this link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdLqCKDLxHI5wXjq1PK1FbNwNIt0cg2fbMzWuleJ0erkfnVtw/viewform?usp=sf_link
PPE supplies currently available include:
On Jan. 21, a crew from Two Men and a Truck moving company wheeled pallets of PPE across the floor of the new storage facility to locations selected by Whelan, who was organizing PPE into categories for future distribution.
The county has been gathering and distributing PPE since receiving its first shipment from the Kansas Department of Emergency Management (KDEM) in late March 2020.
The first significant shipment was delivered April 5, which contained surgical gowns, face shields and N95 masks that were distributed to health care providers and emergency services, Whelan said.
Shipments of three-ply masks and disinfectant began about a month later on May 1, he said.
And that was just the beginning as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to rack up more cases.
“We began receiving SPARK-funded PPE and cleaning supplies in mid-August through the end of 2020,” Whelan said in an email. “Well over 1.25 million pieces of PPE and cleaning supplies have been delivered to emergency services, health care facilities, schools, daycare centers and location businesses as of Dec. 31.”
In the first weeks of the new year, more than 100 orders of PPE had been picked up by Jan. 25, with more orders scheduled or waiting to be picked up before month’s end.
SPARK funding spent thus far on PPE for Miami County is about $1.3 million, Whelan said.
Since the pandemic began, a number of businesses, agencies and others have donated PPE and supplies, Whelan said. They include: Patterson Family Foundation, Good Spirits Distilling, Holladay Distillery with HTH International, Lakemary Center, many small businesses and residents, Kansas Department of Emergency Management and Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Whelan said supplies have been purchased from Queens Price Chopper, MoMed Supplies, Life Assist, Bulk Office Supply, PH&S Gloves, Fully Promoted and Amazon.
Upgrades to a 10-mile stretch of 311th Street are part of Miami County’s estimated $3.4 million asphalt program for the 2021 season.
County commissioners unanimously approved the asphalt program, which includes a mix of contract and in-house projects, during their Wednesday, Jan. 27, meeting.
The program includes five gravel-to-pave projects:
Matt Oehlert, project manager with the county Road and Bridge Department, noted one addendum to this year’s program: 319th Street, connecting into Somerset Road from Oak Grove Road, is to be considered as an alternate if funding is available.
Chairman Rob Roberts — a longtime proponent of upgrading Somerset Road and connections like 319th Street — advocated for the addendum during the county’s study session that morning.
The estimated $150,000 cost of the Moonlight Road project will be shared with the city of Gardner for a portion of the road up to the city’s water treatment plant entrance on Moonlight. Gardner’s share will be approximately $50,000. This asphalt overlay project will be contracted out.
Commissioner Danny Gallagher asked Oehlert if Gardner would be responsible for making repairs or reimbursing the county for repairs to Gardner’s portion of the road in the future.
“Not that I’m aware of,” Oehlert said. “This is basically just a one-time upgrade, and the county is responsible for everything thereafter, which is why we decided to go with the asphalt.”
Oehlert said the original agreement was to chip seal Moonlight from 223rd Street to 231 Street, but the county opted for the asphalt overlay upgrade because of the truck traffic to the treatment plant.
“We decided with the type of traffic they are going to have (on Moonlight Road) that chip seal wouldn’t hold up, and we would probably be spending (county funds) to asphalt it the following year,” Oehlert said.
The 2021 program’s remaining four projects, all of which will be contracted out, include patch, mill and overlay repairs to the following:
Patching and chip seal work in the 2021 program will cover more than 40 miles at various locations across the county for a estimated cost of $1,025,000.
The overall cost of the 2021 program is estimated at $3,410,000, which would leave a $60,000 cushion in this year’s asphalt budget.
During the morning’s study session, Commissioner Tyler Vaughan, who represents Spring Hill and the surrounding area, urged the county to consider asphalt projects in the coming years on roads where growth is likely to continue south from southern Johnson County in order to be proactive and help guide growth rather than react to it.
The county plans to let bids this spring for the asphalt program’s contract projects, with work beginning in the summer and continuing into the fall.