JoCo making big changes to keep elderly warm while waiting for COVID-19 vaccine

Tracking Coronavirus

SHAWNEE, Kan. — Johnson County mobilized a lot more help Wednesday to make sure dozens of elderly vaccine seekers were not left waiting outside in below freezing temperatures.

That’s what happened Tuesday.

According to Johnson County’s health director, not as many people are showing up at the Okun Fieldhouse Wednesday without an appointment, at the wrong time, or on the wrong day.

That contributed to the vaccine mess Tuesday, when a long line of residents from Johnson County 80 and older were left waiting in bitter cold conditions for a chance to get immunized against COVID-19.

“Getting here early is not really helpful,” Director of Johnson County Health and Environment, Dr. Sanmi Areola said. “One would think it would get you out faster but it can disrupt the plans. Again, for this population, a population that is more vulnerable, we made plans for that. But we are still bringing in significant numbers every 30 minutes. It’s very important for people to show up at the time, closer to the time that they are scheduled. Definitely on the date scheduled. If you don’t have an appointment, wait until we open up additional appointments.”

On Wednesday, Johnson County brought in a lot more staff and two big warming buses for those who did have to wait for their turn.

In addition, two shuttle buses patrolled the parking lot, giving elderly folks a ride to the front door, so they wouldn’t slip and fall in the snow.

Those who received the immunization Wednesday praised the process, saying they were able to get in-and-out in about 20 minutes.

“We felt it would be very well organized today, which it was,” said Donna Gentry, who received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine with her husband. “Coming in we met one of the officials that we knew and said hello, and just followed the procedure. Everything went very smoothly, very well. Everyone was very courteous in welcoming us and we were delighted to get our shots.”

The county also opened more of the gymnasium to keep people warm while maintaining some distancing.

Four-hundred people are being vaccinated every hour inside the fieldhouse.

More than 1,600 a day, which the health department claims exceeds its targets for vaccine distribution.

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