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Gov. Kelly addresses efforts to reduce vaccine inequities, KDOL scam

Dr. Ximena Garcia Introduced as Gov. Laura Kelly's Advisor for COVID-19 Vaccine Equity.
Dr. Ximena Garcia Introduced as Gov. Laura Kelly's Advisor for COVID-19 Vaccine Equity.(WIBW)
Published: Mar. 10, 2021 at 10:50 AM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Governor Laura Kelly said the COVID-19 vaccines are making a difference and is looking at ways to reach under-served communities, predominantly communities of color.

Over the past two weeks, Kansas saw a 52% decrease in cases, a 62% decrease in deaths and a 35% drop in hospitalizations.

”While we are making progress, some communities still encounter unique barriers in getting vaccinated,” said Kelly. “Particularly, our communities of color.”

Kelly introduced Dr. Ximena Garcia as an advisor for COVID-19 vaccine equity. She will lead efforts studying why inequities exist and how to solve them.

Garcia said, “There’s really excellent work going on in many local communities and we need to work at the state level to support and amplify their efforts.”

She said the rate of deaths for people of color from the virus has been substantially higher than in white populations.

”The data has shown that during the Coronavirus pandemic has taken a huge toll on communities of color these communities have people who are over-represented in front-line, essential jobs and vulnerable to risk factors that can make COVID-19 worse,” said Garcia.

Kelly said the whole state vaccinated as soon as possible and with an increase in allocation from the federal government is letting her to believe this could turn a corner to normalcy in the state.

She said the state expects to receive 130,000 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine combined this week. With more doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine later in the month.

”I do think we’re getting very close to being able to open up more significantly,” she said.

Her disaster declaration extension is set to expire on March 31 and getting rid of mask mandate is the least of her worries if it’s not extended further.

”We wouldn’t be able to deploy the national guard to Sedgwick County to help them out with their mass vaccination sites, we wouldn’t be able to use them to deliver vaccines to more remote areas,” she said. “There’s all sorts of other horrible things that will happen that are not good for Kansans and not fair.”

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Governor Laura Kelly said she is encouraged by the state’s improvement in responding to the pandemic.

Kelly said the state reported 778 new COVID-19 cases and 35 deaths since Monday.

She said the state continues to prioritize getting vaccine doses into the arms of Kansans and reported that the state is receiving more doses with every shipment received from the federal government. She said this week Kansas received 130,000 doses combined between the Pfizer and COVID-19 vaccines and is expecting more of the Johnson and Johnson vaccines later in the month.

The governor added that the vaccines are making a difference with a 52 percent decrease in COVID-19 cases, a 62 percent decrease in deaths from the virus and a 35 percent drop in hospitalizations.

She said the administration’s meatpacking workers’ vaccine plan has been moving quickly since its implementation and anticipates all meatpacking workers that want to be vaccinated can receive a shot by the end of next week.

However, she said communities of color continue to face unique challenges when it comes to getting vaccinated.

She said the administration is now publishing breakdown of race and ethnic vaccine distribution on the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s (KDHE) COVID-19 dashboard.

Kelly also introduced Dr. Ximena Garcia as a special advisor for vaccination equity. The governor said Garcia will coordinate efforts among the Hispanic and Latino American Affairs Commission, the African American Affairs Commission, the Native American Affairs Commission and KDHE to ensure the state is maximizing every administration of the vaccine in the most vulnerable communities.

Dr. Garcia, a daughter of immigrants from South America, has lived in Topeka for the last 18 years.

Garcia said she is “honored” to serve in the role as Senior Advisor for COVID Vaccine Equity.

“The data has shown that during the Coronavirus pandemic has taken a huge toll on communities of color these communities have people who are over-represented in frontline, essential jobs and vulnerable to risk factors that can make COVID-19 worse,” she said.

“In Kansas the data show that we are not really where we should be in terms of vaccine equity among our populations of color.”

KDHE Secretary, Dr. Lee Norman addressed the gaps between the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine and the doses delivered into the arms of Kansans. He said the issues is two-fold, a data interface issue and is ongoing a technical fix, the second reason is doses being in inventory not yet injected.

Norman said the extreme cold weather from weeks ago played a part in no vaccine being delivered to the state and the state played catch-up last week with double the amount of doses arriving to Kansas.

The governor responded to a bill introduced in the state senate that would prevent the state from withholding vaccines from counties moving through their doses more quickly than others.

“Because a county, usually they’re very small counties, were able to get through their phase two more quickly than some of our larger counties because they got more doses per capita than our larger counties, that they would see this as part of the greater good and helping their neighbors out,” she said. “It’s not extortion, it’s not blackmail,it’s just being a good neighbor.”

Kelly also gave an update from the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL) and said the agency is continuing to onboard its 500 new customer service agents and surge staff. Added service hours kicked off this past weekend with longer hours on Saturday and Sunday. Call centers are now open until 9 pm during the week.

She also warned of a recent uptick in fraudulent Facebook accounts posing as state Departments of Labor accounts. She said it is an issue facing every state and the United States Department of Labor created a task force to work with social media platforms about the issue.

She said Kansans should not provide personal information over social media sites. She said if a user receives a message from a fraudulent account to report it immediately to the platform.

She said some ways to spot fraudulent accounts include misspellings, the amount of followers on the account, the social handle and that websites listed on the account end in “.gov”.

Kelly said KDOL does not ask for personal information like a social security number or bank account information via social media.

KDOL’s handles on both Facebook and Twitter are @KansasDOL .

The websites to access unemployment benefits are: getkansasbenefits.gov and pua.getkansasbenefits.gov

Fraudulent accounts can also be reported to the email KDOL.fraud@ks.gov .

Governor Laura Kelly says she will update Kansans regarding COVID-19 on Wednesday, March 10, at 4 p.m.

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