Riley Co. officials incentivizing vaccines after increases in cases, hospitalizations

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 5:28 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Riley County Health Department officials want to see more shots in arms to bring down cases and hospitalizations increasing in the county.

Director Julie Gibbs and Clinic Supervisor Aryn Price said it’s the best way to do so as concerns increase alongside the numbers. She said there are nine COVID-19 patient positive patients and one in the ICU at Ascension Via Christi in Manhattan.

Price said, “Over 99% of those cases that are hospitalized are preventable whereas that wasn’t necessarily the case before a vaccine was in excess supply for Individuals who were desiring the vaccine.”

The county has 108 active cases as of Wednesday, 64 in one week. Health Director Julie Gibbs said there are 61 variants of concern, 47 of them are the Delta variant. 33 breakthrough cases, meaning an individual is fully vaccinated but tested positive for coronavirus.

“Most of those tests, we sent on to sequencing and most of those come back as the delta variant. Of those people that have been vaccinated, again a breakthrough case, that test positive for the delta variant, they have very mild symptoms so that is one thing that we want to make known is that vaccine is protecting us from some of the symptoms or illnesses that come along with that variant,” said Gibbs.

CDC data shows 37% of Riley Co. residents aged 12 and up have at least one vaccine dose, health officials are working to reach the 70% mark.

“We’re going to do a lot more remote clinic so we’re trying to meet people where they are,” said Gibbs. “We have also put out many surveys to ask why people are choosing not to vaccinated, so we’re learning more information about that. Doing some educational campaigns so we’re still trying and we’ll continue to try to get to the 70%.”

Gibbs said people are receiving incorrect information on vaccines from various outlets.

“I hear so many people that they get information by word of mouth or by a blog or a website that might not be exactly credible so I can’t stress enough talking to your primary care provider about some of these concerns that you might have,” said Gibbs.

Price said people often fear the unknown and so trying to get factual, scientifically sound information out to the public is going to be key in their vaccination strategies.

They will be having Saliva testing at the Manhattan Regional Airport from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to help as well. They can administer there for you or people have the opportunity to take a kit home.

“Particularly with the delta variant, it’s affecting age ranges that weren’t previously being infected by the original strain. We know that the delta variant is about 60% more transmissible than previous variants so that is a concern,” she said. “Particularly for the ages can’t yet be vaccinated.”

With the school year approaching, Riley Co. is hosting multiple vaccination clinics for kids. One is from 4-6 p.m. on Friday at Red Bud Estates.

It includes free school supplies for kids 12-and-older and a $25 gift card incentive for those who get the vaccine.

“I will say we have a robust contact tracing staff still at the health department so they still are doing their contact tracing and investigations so we’ll continue that throughout the fall,” said Gibbs.

Price said they will be offering “Little Apple Bucks” for back-to-school vaccinations on July 30, Aug. 10 and Aug 11.

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