KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A group of Kansas health care professionals, educators and advocates will begin meeting weekly to “highlight the urgency of protecting kids from the [COVID-19] delta variant,” Gov. Laura Kelly announced Wednesday.
The Safer Classrooms Workgroup will use the “best available science and information” to support Kelly’s administration, local government and school districts to promote health and safety in the classroom and community.
“Nothing is more important than keeping our students healthy and alive,” Kelly said.
A school safety report – expected to include policies and best practices for school districts; information about school district vaccination and testing events; youth vaccination data by county, as well as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths; and schools with active outbreaks – will also be released weekly as part of the workgroup.
Dr. Jennifer Bacani McKenney, who has been a family physician for 12 years, said during a press conference at Wesley Children's Hospital in Wichita that the health care profession is in the “most challenging time” it has ever experienced.
“Every health care professional I’ve spoken with is discouraged and exhausted,” McKenney said. “For me, this sometimes means sitting in my office at the end of a long day and just having a good cry.”
McKenney also said that the more than 4 billion people worldwide who are vaccinated against the virus are proof the vaccines are effective.
“I ask that you please choose to do something to help yourself and those around you,” she said. “The only way we’ll get out of this challenging time is to do it together.”
Dr. Stephanie Coleman, an associate professor of pediatrics in Wichita, said Wednesday was the five-year anniversary of the opening of Wesley Children’s Hospital, which is seeing an increasing number of hospitalizations for RSV and suicide attempts.
“We will get through this," Coleman said. "We got through the surge in November, December and January and we’ll get through the delta surge… we must reunite and work together to keep our children safe, our schools open."
The state’s virus rates, according to Kelly, are still higher than one year ago, with intensive-care units at or near capacity throughout the state. While vaccinations are increasing, she said Kansas has “a long way to go.”
“I want to implore Kansans to set aside political differences, get vaccinated and support your school staff, your school boards, your community health providers and your local businesses,” Kelly said. “It’s only by working together, all pulling in the same direction, that we can defeat the real enemy, the virus, and get our lives back to normal.”