COVID-19

Gov. Laura Kelly/Facebook

TOPEKA — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly on Wednesday received the first of two COVID-19 vaccine shots while some top Republican officials passed, for now, because not all health care workers and nursing home residents have received theirs.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service/File photo

TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly plans to get a COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday as part of a larger program to give shots to selected Kansas officials so that state government can continue to operate during the pandemic.

The virus infecting thousands of Americans a day is also attacking the country's social fabric. The coronavirus has exposed a weakness in many rural communities, where divisive pandemic politics are alienating some of their most critical residents — health care workers.

A wave of departing medical professionals would leave gaping holes in the rural health care system, and small-town economies, triggering a death spiral in some of these areas that may be hard to stop.

Pat Gray speaks matter-of-factly about taking her last unassisted steps just before her 13th birthday in 1953.

She says she’d been suffering from a gastro-intestinal illness for a few days. Her fever was high, and her mother was caring for her on a sofa in the dining room of the family’s Kansas City, Kansas, home.

Gray was miserable, so her mother suggested she move to her own bed.

COVID-19 poses such dire risks to older people in nursing homes that even vaccines won’t guarantee a quick end to their pandemic isolation.

Tens of thousands of workers and residents at Kansas long-term care facilities will get vaccinated over the next three months. But families aching to visit after such a long separation may not have easy access to their loved ones for several more months at least.

“We will not be clicking our fingers and returning to normal,” said William Hanage, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard University. “There is not a silver bullet.”

Deborah Shaar / KMUW

Bowling alleys in Wichita and across the county are facing their darkest winter yet. They are not only trying to survive the pandemic, but they also have to rebuild a customer base that took decades to grow.

Robert Carter and his wife Mary Ridenour drove up to an alleyway behind First Metropolitan Community Church on a cold December morning in Wichita.

After waiting in a line of cars that sometimes backed up for blocks, they greeted The Rev. Jackie Carter, no relation, but a familiar face, who spoke their names into a walkie talkie.

Within minutes, volunteers had packed the food into their car and moved on to the next family.

“I don’t know what we’d do without this place,” Robert Carter said. “When you have four kids, they give you enough.”

December 15, 2020

The holiday season looks different this year, as the pandemic is keeping families and friends apart. We’re discussing how to cope with social isolation during COVID-19 with a panel of experts:

LAWRENCE, Kansas — In north Lawrence, the city set up 20 white-and-gray tents in a park to house people who are homeless.

It’s not health care, or COVID-19 tests, but federal coronavirus tax dollars are paying for the camp.

“If we put our homeless population into the shelter, there’s a higher chance that they’ll get the virus and then they’ll spread it across the community,” Douglas County Commissioner Patrick Kelly said.

Morry Gash / AP

Hospitals across Kansas have started vaccinating frontline health care workers against COVID-19.

Public health officials have said a widely available vaccine will ultimately control the pandemic that has killed almost 2,500 people in the state.

As the vaccines become available to the general public, America Amplified is gathering and curating answers from experts to questions on the minds of public radio listeners across the country.

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