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Transcript of JoCo on the Go podcast 12/14/2020

Theresa Freed 0:00 Vaccine rollout in Kansas is beginning, but we're not in the clear just yet. On this episode find out what continued use of masks physical distancing, lots of hand washing and more should continue.

Announcer 0:12 Whether you live in or just love Johnson County Kansas, JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.

Theresa Freed 0:25 Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go. I'm your host Theresa Freed, a Johnson County resident and employee of Johnson County government. COVID-19 vaccines are making their way to the state and the county but distribution of the vaccine is happening in phases. So it will take some time for the vaccine to reach everyone. With more on that we have with us Johnson County Department of Health and Environment director, Dr. Sanmi Areola, thanks for being here.

Dr. Sanmi Areola 0:49 Thanks for having me.

Theresa Freed 0:51 Well, first off, can you just tell us the latest on the vaccine distribution for Johnson County?

Dr. Sanmi Areola 0:57 The first of all, we are very happy about this development. It's been it's been a long journey trying to control the spread of this virus. So it's pretty good news for us to see that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine starting to be shipped across the country over the weekend. This week, we expect the Moderna version to be approved and to be shipped soon afterwards. We do know that the state KDHE is is following largely the CDC's criteria for prioritization. So the in the 1A group, the top group, are health care workers, as well as residents of long term care facilities. We know that this first round that the state received around 24,000 doses and those shipped to about five different locations across the state. And those are heading to again, frontline healthcare workers. And as soon as the Moderna version is available, there'll be more that's going to residents of long term care facility. The one thing to keep in mind about the Pfizer version is it does require ultra cool temperature. But once it's thawed, it's got to be administered within five days. So all of those are taken into consideration in terms of the logistics, but pretty happy that those are being made available. Very good development for the state of Kansas, but also for Johnson County.

Theresa Freed 2:47 All right. And so all of the coordination of who's getting the vaccine and which providers are distributing or administering the vaccine is all that handling being happening happening here in Johnson County, or is the state handling that or how's that being divided.

Dr. Sanmi Areola 3:03 The primary decisions as to where that goes is handled by the state. But we are in close coordination with them. We've had a staff that has been meeting with them, we have been working with healthcare providers with long term care facilities. And there's also coordination with the with their pharmacies, so that the providers are working directly with pharmacies, Walgreens, CVS and others. Again, the idea is to try not to leave everything to the local department. And it's a massive undertaking, and that will be that will be challenging. But the way that's planned is we've had providers that have been registering and having coordination with a CVS, Walgreens and other pharmacies around here. And that should make it seamless. The coordination again, is by KDHE. And working very closely with us and other local health departments.

Theresa Freed 4:09 So just one more question about the vaccine. Will there be some sort of master lists of providers that people need to access? Or do they go to their regular doctor and ask for it at some point?

Dr. Sanmi Areola 4:18 Right. So before the vaccine can become available to everyone, it's still going to take a few weeks, perhaps a few months. The state of Kansas, for example, is expecting about 150,000 doses between now and the end of the year. But again, those are going to be targeted to what's the priority groups, health care workers, residents of long term care facilities, people with pre existing conditions, first responders, EMS, all of those are going to be targeted first before it gets to be available. At which point I expect, for example, for us to have an even bigger role in terms of distribution, but going to your healthcare provider right now. It's not, it's not recommended, I think, again, healthcare workers in the frontline that work in different organizations, and that's defined pretty broadly. That includes healthcare workers at the local health department, that include healthcare workers at some of our long term care facilities, skilled nursing homes, and all of those, those are going to get it get it, but they're going to get it in, in coordination and collaboration with employers. So the average person who does not fall into that group just have to be a little patient until it becomes more widely available. The good news is, even outside of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, there are other vaccines that we expect to be on the market. This should be widely available by the time we get to February, March, and it should be easier for people to get

Theresa Freed 6:03 And when you hear about the vaccine, you think, okay, I can finally get rid of my mask. But that's not the case. Can you talk a little bit about why it's important to continue those safety precautions.

Dr. Sanmi Areola 6:12 So we are very, very happy that for the first time in this fight against this virus, that we do have a tool that potentially would be very important to helping us take firm control over the spread. That's gonna take a while. We need 70 to 80% of population to be vaccinated before we get the so-called population immunity. That's going to take a while to get to that level. Because prior to that, again, the average person you and I, we need to continue to do the things that that that we have been doing. So the good The good thing, again, is the vaccines are very effective and safe. But right now, because of the limited quantities we are targeting, the high risk group health care workers, as peoples are 65 years or older people with pre existing conditions, all of those are going to it's going to take a while logistically to deploy those. Plus, we're still really, at the mercy of how many of these vaccines that we have that are available, the companies are doing their best to produce more, as well. So in the next five, six months, if we are able to get 70 80% of our population to take this vaccine, we're going to be in better shape. And there may be some of these things that that I think smart things to continue, it's always a smart thing to wash your hands the proper way. So always a smart thing to not necessarily shake everyone's hand or fist bump. So those those I expect, I will continue to encourage people to do, but right now, masking is as important as it was two months ago, as important as it was three months ago, maybe even more important in the next couple of weeks, as we are beginning to see some of the impacts of the gatherings over Thanksgiving. And then we're entering into Hanukkah, Christmas and the holidays and expect more gatherings. And especially as we do all of this things in the indoor environment, we expect cases to to increase we expect hospitalizations to increase we expect a demand on other hospital resource resources, ICU ventilators to increase. The one way that we can work together to ensure that you and I, when we still have reasons to go to seek medical care, when we have reasons to go and see a doctor, that our opportunity for the healthcare workers to take care of us is for us to continue to wear mask to physical, physically distance to wash our hands, avoid large crowds staying home when we're sick, because we do know that our hospitals are either at or very close to capacity. And those things are going to be stretched. They're going to be touched even more in the next few weeks. The the projection is that January might be the more difficult month and that's something because we've had some really difficult times. So if you play your role and I play mine. If we do all of these basic things that we have all been doing, especially right now, I think for me, it's actually easier to do. It's a long tunnel and the light is not quite as bright but there is light at the end of the tunnel. And this is that we are doing with the vaccine being available. We know that we only have to do it for a limited limited period of time. That's different from two, three months ago, when we weren't so sure about the availability of vaccine. And so those things are important, even more important now, especially in the next few weeks. And the next few months as we are trying to get a higher percentage of our population vaccinated.

Theresa Freed 10:20 All right, that's all very good information. I know that you're probably still hearing some of the criticism to about mask use, and concerns that that masks are not effective. So can you address the science behind the effectiveness of masks?

Dr. Sanmi Areola 10:35 Right, so an excellent question. One of the things that we have learned one of many things in, in responding to responding to this pandemic, is the benefits that barrier mask, cloth mask. Present. When we started, we were pretty clear, I'm pretty sure about how when I wear a mask, I am protecting you from me. And when you wear a mask, you're, you're protecting me from you. But more recent evidence is supporting the fact that my barrier mask is offering some measure of protection to me also, as much as it is protecting you from me. And those are good, I think the basic thing to see is, from what we know about the virus, it's not just the heavy droplets, in which case that is that is the basis of transmission, especially when you are closer to somebody which is again, the reason why we talk about the six foot distance is that there are scenarios where airborne airborne, transmission is possible. It's one it's a virus that I don't have to cough or sneeze by merely talking I could infect you. So the cloth barrier mask, basically break the projection, they slow it down, or change the path. And that's all we really need. If we're able to change the path in a way that the droplets drops down to the ground, or reduces the velocity at which it comes out. Or reduces the ability at which it spreads, those are very helpful. And that's what study after study continued to point out to us even in in Johnson County, we approved the mask mandate on July 2, ten days to two weeks after that we saw a change in the trajectory of the exponential increase. And then we were flat within a very narrow range for about three months. Those are the impacts of the mask, and also a study out of the local university look at the overall impact across the state that was published in MMW, which is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publication that just highlight some of the key findings in our field. And that does show that wearing mask and the mask mandate were very impactful. And so again, next few months, that's going to be critical. Until we get to a place where we have enough vaccine to vaccinate a majority of our population, masks do work. It is absolutely the most important tool that we have available to us. And like the CDC director said a few weeks ago, that mask may be more important, or as important as the vaccine, again, more because we don't have the vaccine yet. And even when we have the vaccine. And we slowly go about vaccinating people, still, the most, the easiest tool that's available to us right now is mask.

Theresa Freed 13:47 And I know one of the other criticisms that you've you've heard of course is that that the mask can be difficult for some people to wear and potentially dangerous, because it makes it difficult to breathe for some people. And we of course know that there are some some individuals who have legitimate health concerns where mask uses is not necessarily a good idea. Can you talk about the safety of wearing a mask long term, you know, during the day?

Dr. Sanmi Areola 14:14 Right. So, by and large, I think the general statement to be made and for people to understand is masks are safe. We have people who wear masks for several hours a day, albeit in medical settings. There we have them 19, 20 hours working through that. Oh yes part of the mask mandate did take into consideration different exceptions. children younger than five, people with certain medical conditions and those people should not wear masks. Sometimes it takes getting used to and that's one thing that we have to know we're not used to wearing mask all the time so Yeah, I mean, is it is it? Does it present a situation where you as free as if you are not wearing mask? No. Is there an element of discomfort there? Absolutely. We want to acknowledge that. But right now based on where we are, given the scenario, given the risk that is posed by this virus, the prudent thing to do, in spite of this discomfort is to put on a mask.

Theresa Freed 15:28 Now, right good information there, too. And we know the county has some additional masks a surplus of those. And because this is so important that the the community wear masks when they have to be out in the public, I understand that the health department will be distributing some of those masks to vulnerable populations. Can you talk a little bit about that effort?

Dr. Sanmi Areola 15:49 Yes, that, that is one of the things that we are working on doing. We do understand, again that there are different challenges. Part of that is is getting the mask, part of that is having enough masks so you can change or wash some of them, and then have other pairs to put on. Part of that is just making it easier for families to do. We do absolutely recognize the challenges that the pandemic has posed to our residents. And so we are looking at different opportunities to be able to assist and provide masks to our population, again, underscoring the fact that even with the good news about the vaccine. The mask, the next few months is very, very important for us in terms of being able to prevent uncontrolled spread of the virus. So we're looking at distributing masks to our vulnerable population, we're looking to work with our partners across the country to do that, we're looking at opportunities to distribute masks when people get tested. We are looking at opportunities to provide masks with our homeless population, we're looking for opportunities to distribute mask with in to our low socio economic status groups in the community to essential workers or minority groups. And we're working on that. And if anyone out there has a need for mask, or you have an opportunity to get these masks to our population, do not hesitate to reach out to us, we will be glad to work with our emergency management and provide those mask. We want the masks to be readily available across the county. And we're going to work really hard and do our best to ensure precisely that.

Theresa Freed 17:52 All right. And just a final question, since you meant mentioned testing, I want to make sure that people understand that testing is still very much available. And you're still encouraging testing and we have lots of different different opportunities around the county if you want to talk about that.

Dr. Sanmi Areola 18:06 Yeah, testing continues to be a primary tool in our efforts to control this virus is also very important to you. As we have the risk of contracting the virus is highest now than at any point in the past. But we also have more testing now than at any point in the past. So first at our health services built here for several weeks, the number of slots that we have available that you can book, one on jocogov.org/coronavirus. It was for several weeks had 1,140 slots. A couple of weeks ago, we were able to boost that to 1,820. That's almost 700 additional slots per week. That's an increase. But then we have been working with the state KDHE. And we have sites that are set up. One at the Church of the Resurrection, at the Johnson County Community College, another at Mission North High School and we're looking at a few other sites where you can go. Go to to gogettested.com/kansas and book one of those slots to get tested. The last week we had our highest number of residents tested in a week. I think that's a reflection of the availability of the test. Especially if you are in a gathering you should really consider yourself exposed the virus, the activity is pretty high in the county. If you're out there working on interacting with people, you should consider yourself, you should get yourself tested. And the opportunities are there. So we more than we were four or five weeks ago, we have more than doubled the slots, and double the opportunity to get tested. And I personally think the next two to three weeks testing is going to be very, very important. And we are having so many cases, and I'm beginning to tell people that if you get tested and you get a positive case, you should, or you were in the gathering and you do not get tested. If you consider yourself a positive and consider self isolating for 10 days. And if you have been in contact with somebody who is a case or meaning who tested positive, then you should consider quarantining yourself. And unlike in the past, when it's a 14 day quarantine, that's still the best option. But then we have other options right now, if you get tested from day six after, after your exposure, or you are negative, you can be released from quarantine, that's a big change in the past our message was you cannot test yourself out of quarantine. And if you don't get tested and you want to be off of quarantine after 10 days, that's also an option. So that opportunities to get tested right now or you should take advantage.

Theresa Freed 21:30 All right, that's all great information. Thanks as always for joining us and providing the latest on COVID in Johnson County. And to get even more information go to jocogov.org/coronavirus. Thanks for listening.

Announcer 21:43 You just heard JoCo on the Go. Join us next time for more everything Johnson County. Have a topic you want to discuss? We want to hear from you. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter at JoCoGov. For more on this podcast visit jocogov.org/podcast. Thanks for listening.