Groups take new approach in Kansas City’s urban core to get more people vaccinated

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — COVID-19 case numbers are on the rise and some doctors are calling it a crisis for hospitals.

“The truth is we’re back in trouble again and right here in Kansas City we have a third wave,” said Dr. Steve Stites, Chief Medical Officer of the University of Kansas Health System.

On Wednesday in the urban core in Kansas City there was a new approach to getting people vaccinated. Community groups are now going door-to-door in areas like Brooklyn Avenue and East 11th Street trying to convince people to get vaccinated.

In early July Governor Mike Parson was resistant to the door-to-door approach. Especially if employees of the federal government were involved.

But rising COVID-19 case numbers, not just in Springfield and southern Missouri but in the Kansas City metro as well, are springing some groups into action.

It’s feet on the pavement and hangers on doorknobs for workers with the Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center with employees offering vaccinations and conversations about them on-the-spot.

The effort is sponsored by multiple federal agencies partnered with the Kansas City Housing Authority and the health center.

“The delta variant is real and vaccines save lives. I know there’s a lot of misinformation and a lot of concern and a lot of reasons people are saying ‘Well I’m just going to wait and see.’ The challenge with ‘wait and see’ is disproportionately affected populations are succumbing to COVID,” said Catherine Wiley, director of marketing and communications for the Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center.

A progressive map from the Mayo Clinic shows the creep of rising case counts over the last two months. Kansas City and surrounding counties are already spiking, according to local health leaders.

In Cass County there have been 160 more cases over the past seven days (+27%). In Jackson County there have been 520 more cases (+39%). And in Kansas City there have been 661 news cases (+67%).

“Today we don’t have beds and so we are turning down transfers which is creating, I think, a real concern – maybe even a crisis – in our region because patients are having trouble landing in the beds anywhere near their home town,” said Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System.

Stites said that hospital beds are being taken up by people who have health issues other than COVID-19, including the flu and the common cold. Last year there were less of these patients in the hospital, which he also attributes to widespread mask wearing.

Doctors in the University of Kansas Health System also say patients are coming in ‘hotter.’ They are younger, sicker, and require more serious intervention including ventilation.

“We are full as a hospital. And because we’re full we cannot take transfers and we’ve been turning down between one and five-or-six acute patients every day,” Stites said.

Workers doing the door-to-door vaccination solicitations say the numbers aren’t necessarily convincing for people who are unvaccinated.

“But my feeling is it doesn’t help to just park a van and say ‘okay we’ll vaccinate you.’ You need to have a conversation,” Wiley said.

“People are no longer paying attention to white noise. They hear what they want to hear. There’s a lot of misinformation,” Wiley said.

Workers from the Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center are planning to continue their door-knock campaign on Friday in the same area. The federal groups they are partnered with include HUD and HRSA (which is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.)

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