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Pandemic pivot underway: Kansas shifting to endemic response

Published: Mar. 31, 2022 at 2:35 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The shift from pandemic to endemic response is underway in Kansas.

Gov. Laura Kelly’s office announced Thursday that the Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment will begin transitioning into the state‘s ‘new normal’ starting April 1, 2022.

Kelly’s office says the pivot from emergency pandemic response to endemic normalcy will mean the state will deal with the COVID-19 virus like they do other recurring diseases such as influenza.

Officials say KDHE will continue to be prepared for potential COVID surges in the future by using lessons learned the past two years.

“Kansas is continuing the transition to a new phase of understanding and living with COVID-19,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “We know the pandemic is not over, however we now have the tools and knowledge obtained over the past two years to prevent or reduce the spread of the virus. We are normalizing our COVID-19 response and incorporating these lessons into our larger efforts at improving health outcomes for all Kansans, which includes work on multiple diseases and an awareness of differing risk factors.”

According to the Governor’s office, the State of Kansas has administered 7 million COVID-19 tests, given more than 4 million vaccinations, and more than 78% of Kansans eligible for the vaccination have received at least one dose.

“In our new normal, we will continue to ensure that Kansans have equitable access to life-saving vaccines, tests, and treatments. This shift does not mean that COVID is over, but rather we are working to manage the disease in a way that allows us to maintain a more normal life that is once again filled with friends, families and other loved ones,” said KDHE Secretary Janet Stanek.

The KDHE outlined six “key areas” they say will keep them ahead of the next surge of COVID-19:

  • Intervention: KDHE will continue to provide comprehensive guidance, while continuing to offer additional assistance to underserved and/or vulnerable populations.
  • Vaccination: KDHE will focus on making sure vulnerable populations have access to the COVID-19 vaccine while existing vaccine providers, including health care providers, pharmacists, hospitals, and LHDs, will continue to serve the broader population.
  • Treatment: KDHE will continue to ensure Kansans will be able to receive COVID-19 treatment across the State, as treatment distribution shifts away from public health entities and back to local health care providers.
  • Testing: KDHE will continue to support access to free testing across the state through community testing sites, LHDs, and K-12 schools as long as federal funding is available. In addition, the federal government provides direct testing support to Federally Qualified Health Centers and pharmacies around the state. To find a free testing location near you, go to knowbeforeyougoKS.com. KDHE testing support for Long Term Care Facilities will be phased out on May 15, 2022, and testing support for employers ends on June 30, 2022.
  • Monitoring: KDHE will continue to monitor data as reported by organizations and facilities across the state to understand the status of COVID-19 and proactively identify at-risk groups. Public reporting will be reduced to once a week.
  • Communications: KDHE will continue to provide essential and accessible COVID information to keep Kansans safe and aware of any subsequent changes to COVID-19 response efforts.

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