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Kansas Starts COVID-19 Campaign Amid Fears About Delta Variant

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Matt Stamey/Wichita Journalism Collaborative
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TOPEKA — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has launched public-service announcements about COVID-19, reflecting officials' fears that people who travel over the Fourth of July holiday will return with the fast-spreading delta variant.

One 30-second television spot features Kelly, while another features her and U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, a fellow Democrat who represents the state's portion of the Kansas City area in Congress. In both, the message is the same: The coronavirus pandemic is not over; the best protection is to get vaccinated, and people should wear masks and social distance if they aren't inoculated.

The state is using federal funds to cover the $161,500 cost of the campaign, with spots set to air across the state through the holiday, Kelly's office said. The effort comes with the pace of COVID-19 inoculations in Kansas slowing, cases of the delta variant increasing, and COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations spiking in neighboring Missouri.

“We all have a role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19, especially as new strains emerge," Kelly said in a statement announcing the campaign.

Missouri on Wednesday reported 854 new COVID-19 cases, driven largely by a jump in cases in areas already hard hit by the delta variant. Meanwhile, in Kansas, the state Department of Health and Environment reported that the number of identified delta variant cases rose 27.5% from 222 to 283 since Monday.

Kansas saw its new COVID-19 cases bottom out at an average of 96 a day for the seven days ending June 23, before it began increasing. State health department data shows that the average number of new confirmed and probable cases was 156 a day for the seven days ending Wednesday — 61.5% higher.

The latest figure still is a fraction of the numbers Kansas saw in November and December 2020, and steady declines in new cases this spring prompted Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature to declare that the state no longer faced an emergency. Top GOP lawmakers used power granted to them by Kansas law to end a state of emergency June 15, while Kelly urged them to keep it in place through August.

The Kansas health department reported Wednesday that 38.8% of the state's 2.9 million residents or 1.13 million, have been fully vaccinated, while 44.3% or 1.29 million had received at least one of two shots.

An average of 5,472 shots a day were administered in June, less than a quarter of the figure for April, when shots peaked at an average of 22,655 a day, state data showed.