KC area health officials urge vaccines, masks, distancing

By The Examiner staff

Kansas City area health departments, including the Jackson County Health Department, on Friday called on the public to step up the fight against COVID-19, particularly through vaccinations.

“The COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to significantly reduce the risk of  serious illness, hospitalization and death,” the 10 health departments said in a joint release.

The group said there are “rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the Kansas City metro related to the emergence of the delta variant.”

The Missouri State Medical Association issued a similar call.

“As the disease continues to spread and tax the state’s health systems,” the group said, “we encourage simple acts that can help stop the virus: practice social distancing when possible, voluntarily wear a mask in public places, and get tested if you feel sick. Doing these things will lessen the burden on our hospitals and help ensure our communities and neighbors are healthy and safe.”

The metro group said those who are unvaccinated but who have resumed normal activities without adequate protection are the most at risk. That's especially true for those who are immunocompromised.

Because vaccination rates in the area are so low, the group also encourages everyone – vaccinated or not – to maintain social distancing of six feet or more, even outside.

The Independence Health Department posted similar suggestions – wearing face masks indoors and at outdoor gatherings, social distancing, frequent hand washing – last week.

The metro health departments said they “strongly recommend” many steps, including:

• Everyone 12 and older getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This also means protecting those 12 and younger by making sure the adults around them are vaccinated. It also means making sure to get the second shot if the vaccine is from Pfizer or Moderna.

• Those who are unvaccinated should wear a mask in public places indoors, while in crowded places outdoors, and during activities with close contact with those who are unvaccinated – more than half of the people in the metro area. Crowded places such as restaurants, bars, fitness centers and theaters raise the risk for unvaccinated people.

“Please assume that 1 in 2 people in any crowd or gathering may be unvaccinated,” it says. “If you do not know the vaccination status of those around you, resume social distancing of at least 6 feet.”

• Talk to friends and family about the important of getting vaccinated.

• Consult your physician if you have concerns about getting vaccinated.

• Stay home if you're sick.

• Get a COVID-19 test if you have symptoms, including mild symptoms similar to those of a cold or allergies.