With Pfizer eligibility expected to be expanded to youths ages 5 to 11 in November, Riley County health officials have plans for COVID-19 vaccination clinics in conjunction with area schools.
Health Department Clinical Supervisor Aryn Price presented the information at the monthly intergovernmental luncheon between representatives of area municipalities, educational institutions, business associations and Fort Riley.
Price says the eligibility expansion is under consideration by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and that first and second dose clinic plans will be finalized once the go-ahead is given by the federal health group.
“This vaccine will be different,” says Price. “It will be a lower dosage than that is administered to adults, so stay tuned for more information on that.”
ACIP says discussions on the Pfizer expansion are planned for November 2 and 3. Currently, children under 12 are not eligible to be vaccinated.
Health Department Director Julie Gibbs provided an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the county. She says the county continues to see about eight to ten new cases per day, though percent positivity rates have remained below five percent for the past five weeks.
“This is down a lot from just a few months ago, so we’re very happy to see that.”
Gibbs reports that last week, the county had a 3.31 percent positivity rate within the community, down from 3.91 the prior week.
On the testing side of things, Gibbs noted a decrease in demand this past month though says the department tests about 1,500 people every week.
Testing by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment continues to be available weekdays from 8 to 5 at the Manhattan Town Center, and those with COVID-19 symptoms can schedule free tests almost any morning of the week through the health department.
“You can call anytime throughout the day, Monday through Friday 8 to 5, and schedule an appointment to get tested if you have symptoms,” Gibbs says. “We also are here on Saturday mornings, so whether you’re symptomatic or asymptomatic, you can just park behind the health department and […] get you tested.”
Gibbs adds that the RADxUP project, standing for rapid acceleration of diagnostics – underserved populations, is continuing to provide mobile testing services as well.
“We usually try to go once or twice a week to different areas like Ogden, Riley, Randolph, Leonardville,” she says. “To kind of hit those areas that we don’t get to that often or that don’t have the availability everyday to be tested.”
RADxUP is a Riley County initiative, in association with the National Institutes of Health, to enhance testing in populations feeling the virus’ impact disproportionately. Testing locations are updated on the Riley County Health Department website and Facebook weekly.
Price also took the opportunity to encourage residents to get vaccinated for influenza this season. She says though the flu season was ‘pretty non-existent’ last year, that can be attributed to COVID-19 precautions and health officials anticipate with schools open and lessened restrictions that this season could see higher infection rates this season.
In other business, Riley County Clerk Rich Vargo provided attendees with an update on advance voting for the upcoming November election.
As of Friday, Vargo says 1,235 advance ballots have been cast and anticipates the flow of early voters to pick up as the week progresses.
“2019 election, we had 2,499 people participate in advance voting,” he says. “Wouldn’t be surprised if we meet or exceed that.
“There was a constitutional amendment on that ballot as well as a city sales tax question, so there’s always little differences from election to election so we’ll see how it goes.”
- Riley County Counselor Clancy Holeman discussed next week’s legislative conference with 4 out of 5 state legislative delegates, noting the meeting will be in person and not via Zoom. He says the meeting will be structured slightly differently, beginning with a spreadsheet presentation of the dollar impact to county residents as a result of legislative actions between 2013 and 2022.
- USD383 Asst. Superintendent Eric Reid discussed the recent decision to make masks optional at Manhattan High School. He said he is hopeful that the move can help bring the school environment closer to normal, but is prepared to pivot as necessary if cases begin to rise. School Board Member Kristen Brighton said she is eager to see how it goes.
- Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jason Smith noted they are in the midst of their membership drive, and also discussed the challenge that employee daycare poses to area businesses. Smith says they’re currently exploring ways to positively improve daycare accessibility in the Manhattan area, with a working group meeting for the second time on the topic Tuesday. Additionally, he mentioned the Chamber is currently analyzing how to put together an older professionals group similar to the young professional group that has recently relaunched.
- Fort Riley Deputy Garrison Commander Steve Cruisinberry reported the conclusion of the Warfighter 22-1 exercise, which brought in 2,500 soldiers and civilians from various posts to the region. Cruisinberry adds the 287th MP Company returned from Kuwait after a year away. Additionally, BRO Year of Honor continues and the post bid farewell to Command Sgt. Maj. Ray Harris, who is replaced by Sgt. Maj. Chris Mullinax. He also informed residents to continue expecting training noise through the next month.
- Kansas State University Chief of Staff Linda Cook discussed the institution’s recent statement that it will require employees to be vaccinated in accordance with federal mandate. Read more here.
- Riley County Commission Chair John Ford informed meeting-goers about a request for qualifications for design work on a new emergency operations facility, noting 20 applications are in as of Monday morning. The county is also exploring a rural economic development committee which Ford hopes can be solidified by the end of the year.
- Manhattan City Manager Ron Fehr provided numerous updates on construction around the community.