These days, everywhere you go, it seems people are finding they can get vaccinated and that included at Fiesta Hispana. Families took advantage to get their vaccine.



BY JOE ARCE AND COREY CRABLE

The Unified Government of Kansas City, KS, has approved an extension of its mask mandate through Nov. 18. The government voted for the extension on Sept. 9, the same day that U.S. President Joe Biden addressed the nation on new federal vaccine requirements.

According to a Sept. 10 press release from, the Unified Government, both vaccinated and unvaccinated citizens will be required to wear masks in indoor public spaces. Public and private schools are exempt from the order, as are the cities of Bonner Springs and Edwardsville. The governing body voted unanimously to extend the order, 10-0.

Outside of City Hall, governing bodies, nonprofit organizations, and public health entities have attempted to make the vaccine more widely available to the public, especially as the COVID-19 Delta Variant has spread throughout younger populations quickly.

For instance, vaccines were offered at the annual Fiesta Hispana at Barney Allis Plaza in downtown Kansas City, Mo., where attendees lined up to receive their first or second shot. Santos and his wife Araceli came to Fiesta Hispana to enjoy some great Latino food and listen to music, but as they were walking throughout the fiesta, they saw a booth offering vaccines. Santos says he and his wife stopped at the booth and noticed that people there spoke Spanish they were told they could get the vaccine here today, so they did. KC Hispanic News asked Santos why it had taken them so long to get vaccinated.

“I’m not really sure. We have been thinking about it for months and just didn’t make the time for it. Also, I don’t like needles,” Santos replied.

The couple filled out the paperwork and got their first vaccine. Both said they were happy to finally get it done.

“After being vaccinated, it makes me feel protected now that I got the shot,” Araceli said.

Frank Thompson, interim director of the KCMO Health Department, said that although vaccination numbers are on the rise, he still harbors some concerns about communities of color.

“We are concerned about what’s going on in our black and brown communities. In particular with the Hispanic community, 56 percent of that community has started their vaccination series,” Thompson told KC Hispanic News at Fiesta Hispana last weekend. “That’s good news. But only 44 percent have completed it. Some people are feeling, ‘Well, I got one dose, so that’s good enough.’ But one dose only protects you from 60 percent of the disease. As long as the virus can find suitable hosts, it’s going to continue to spread and it will mutate into a form this vaccine is not able to defeat.”

Thompson said that one primary challenge to convincing the unvaccinated to line up for a shot is an aggressive misinformation campaign being perpetuated on social media.

“This has been politicized, unlike prior vaccines. With polio, we didn’t play around. We mandated the vaccine, got people vaccinated in a very short period of time,” Thompson recalled. “With this, it’s part of people’s identities, and that’s troublesome. There is also a disinformation campaign. Some of it is domestic, some of it is from other countries that want to see us destabilized. Finally, we all have our fingers on our phones, and now everyone fancies themselves an expert. Just because someone has read a couple of articles online, they think they know what this virus is and isn’t capable of, and they won’t listen to advice from their doctors.”

Thompson said he continues to hear about individuals taking a “wait and see” attitude toward vaccination, and that there is no reason to continue to wait. The information and resources are out there.

“This is on the news every day and on social media every day. People have the information they have to make a decision about whether they’re going to protect themselves and their families or not. It’s that simple,” he said.

Dr. Erin Corriveau of the Unified Government Public Health Dept., says her data shows that more citizens are indeed making the decision to protect themselves and their family, but that hospitals’ resources remain strained with the COVID cases that are admitted. Addressing the city’s leaders at the Sept. 9 meeting, she reported that COVID infection rates were steadily falling after much higher numbers in recent weeks.

“We have seen a really impressive downturn of those cases – I think we’ve turned that corner,” Corriveau said.

“I think that is due to masking. But I think that if we were to let up too soon, we could have another sort of bump [in COVID-19 cases], and I don’t think our healthcare workforce and our hospitals could take that right now,” she said, adding that although positive cases have trended downward, hospitalizations have not.

“At KU Hospital where I practice, we’re still not seeing any decline in the numbers of patients who we have on ventilators or in the hospital with COVID at this time,” Corriveau said. “We still have, day in and day out, over 100 patients of our total 900 patients inpatient, who have COVID-19. We’re seeing that these hospitalizations are still in our younger population, unfortunately – 30s, 40s, 50s. We’re also seeing many children still at this point in time hospitalized, which has been very sad.”

According to data from The New York Times, as of Sept. 10, Kansas has recorded 388,000 COVID cases since the start of the pandemic (a little more than 26,000 of those have been reported in Wyandotte County), as well as 5,783 deaths. Missouri, meanwhile, has recorded more than twice as many cases at 799,000 (51,405 of those in Jackson County, and 12,805 in Cass County), with 11,5656 deaths reported.

In Washington, D.C., the president outlined sweeping new restrictions for federal government employees among them, employers that employ 100 people or more must require all employees to be vaccinated or tested for COVID weekly. Employees of the government’s executive branch must be vaccinated with no option to opt out contractors who do business with the federal government must do the same, according to a Sept. 10 article from The Associated Press. The mandate would affect roughly 100 million federal employees.

Biden adopted a noticeably more forceful tone in criticizing those Americans who have so far refused to be vaccinated.

“We’ve been patient,” Biden said in his remarks. “But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us.” The president said the unvaccinated minority “can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”

According to the Kansas City, KS, Unified Government’s press release, the government continues to offer vaccinations to those 12 and older at 7836 State Ave. (the former Kmart facility). COVID tests are offered there from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday, with vaccinations offered at the same location from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Friday. For more information, dial 3-1-1 or visit www.WycoVaccines.org.