COVID news: Garth Brooks, vaccines, and Children’s Mercy at capacity in Kansas City

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Public health officials and other leaders are urging Kansas Citians to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the number of hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise amid the latest surge of the delta variant through Missouri and into Kansas.

In Kansas City, leaders are looking for ways to address vaccine hesitancy — including by putting a clinic out for the tens of thousands of fans expected to be at a Garth Brooks concert this month.

At Truman Medical Centers/University Health, hospital officials want to lead by example by requiring employees to become vaccinated as a workplace condition. And summer camps, including one in Johnson County, have lately become hotbeds for COVID-19, area health officials say, as outbreaks of the virus have occurred among children too young to get the vaccine.

Here are some of the latest headlines about COVID-19:

Beer, country, vaccines

The Kansas City Chiefs are working with city officials on a plan to have a COVID-19 vaccination site at Arrowhead Stadium when country music star Garth Brooks appears there for an Aug. 7 concert. Arrowhead previously served as a vaccination site in the spring when the vaccines were first rolling out.

The concert sold out within 24 hours of ticket sales going live online. The stadium seats 76,000. Some tickets were posted for on-field seats priced at $9,200.

Speaking to the vaccination clinic during a Monday press conference at the Chiefs training camp in St. Joseph, team president Mark Donovan said: “We’re going to continue to take every single opportunity we can to create vaccination opportunities.”

Asked about the possibility of using the venue for vaccines on Sundays during Chiefs season, Donovan said. “Not sure we’re going to be able to do it game days. We’re trying to work through that as well.”

Children’s Mercy hits capacity

Children’s Mercy has reached capacity Monday following a wave of patients with COVID-19 and childhood diseases.

Dr. Barbara Pahud, research director of infectious diseases, said Monday there are more COVID cases among younger children still ineligible to receive the vaccine. But that’s not the only driver of new admissions, she said.

“When we decided to lift the mask policies because we have now vaccines available, in addition to COVID being able to spread, all these other childhood diseases can start spreading as well,” she said during The University of Kansas Health System’s daily briefing.

Pahud also said summer camps have been super spreader events, and said as schools reopen next month, it will be important to vaccinate those eligible, wear masks and practice social distancing.

If proper measures are not taken, she said, “We are going to see problems. We’re going to see children land in the hospital and that’s the last thing we want to do.”

Summer camp ends early

An outbreak of COVID-19 at a Johnson County summer camp prompted its early end this week after eight positive cases were reported.

The camp is hosted by the Johnson County Park and Recreation District at Clear Creek Elementary School in Shawnee. Masks were recommended by camp-goers but not required and many children went without face-coverings, according to the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.

Meantime, the health department is working with the camp to isolate or quarantine those who are affected, said Sanmi Areola, Johnson County’s top public health official.

Earlier this month, Johnson County health department officials issued a recommendation that children who have not been fully vaccinated wear masks when the fall semester starts. Only the Kansas City, Kansas school district has said students will face such a mandatory requirement among Kansas City’s suburbs on the Kansas side of State Line Road.

Johnson County has added more than 1,580 new cases this month, more than May and June combined, according to data from the health department.

Truman library opens, closes

Less than a month after its reopening, the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum has closed again amid concerns about rising COVID-19 cases in Jackson County.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) made the decision based on the local positivity rate of COVID-19 and the seven-day average of new cases in the Jackson County area. They said these exceed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention definition of “high transmission.”

“It is very disappointing to close our doors so soon after our reopening, but this is an unfortunate precaution based on public safety,” Truman Library Director Kurt Graham said in a news release Monday. “We’re hopeful that this setback is temporary.”

The news comes a couple of weeks after the library reopened to visitors on July 2 after two years of being closed for extensive renovations and because of the pandemic.

Mandatory vaccines

Some health care employees in Kansas City will be required to show proof of vaccination under new policies announced Monday. Truman Medical Centers says its employees would have to take that step on Monday, becoming one of the first regional employers to do so.

The mandate is consistent with it’s long-standing practices of requiring health care workers to be vaccinated against serious infectious diseases for the safety of patients and staff. Approximately 70% of its staff have already been vaccinated against the coronavirus and its variants.

Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has facilities in Kansas City, is requiring its health care workers to get vaccinated — becoming the first major federal agency to make that move.

The Star’s Bill Lukitsch, Katie Moore, Sam McDowell, Robert A. Cronkleton and Angela Cordoba Perez contributed to this report.