Infections, hospitalizations ‘going up’ with Delta variant; Here’s what to know before heading back to school

Coronavirus in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – As students prepare to head back to school next month, some parents may be wondering what coronavirus vaccine requirements may look like for schools. But, in Kansas, there are none.

State law only requires schools to enforce vaccinations that are listed by the state health secretary. The coronavirus vaccine is not on that list, but state health officials are encouraging people that are eligible to get the vaccine, especially as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads.

“Infection’s going up, hospitalizations going up, primarily due to this spread of the Delta virus,” Norman told Kansas Capitol Bureau on Tuesday.

The Delta variant is becoming the more predominant variant in the state and across the nation, according to health officials. The state’s health secretary noted that the viral loads, which measure the amount of a virus in an organism, is higher so it makes it more likely that they’re going to get sicker and more likely that they’re going to spread the illness.

With concerns of the variant spreading, the state has partnered with different counties and community organizations to encourage vaccine support and testing.

Topeka Rescue Mission Ministries is just one of the organizations the state has partnered with. The group’s community outreach coordinator, Mark Degroff, said he’s on a quest to build physical and spiritual health, as he greets community members from all walks of life, usually those in vulnerable communities.

“We are out here to get in the way of people, and to engage with people, who are unsheltered and homeless,” Degroff said.

The rescue mission’s event provides free resources to homeless people in the community and is able to have authorized healthcare workers conduct testing and administer vaccinations on-site with a state-sponsored mobile clinic.

Dr. Norman said while there have been rare breakthrough infections among people who are partially or fully vaccinated, those who are infected usually recover quickly. He said unvaccinated people are the most at risk, which is why it’s important for people who are eligible to get vaccinated before school starts.

Right now, people 12 and up can get the coronavirus vaccine, but students, teachers and staff can still choose whether or not to get the vaccine when they return to school.

According to the state board of education, no school districts are requiring coronavirus vaccinations. However, Dr. Norman said the vaccines are still the best way for people to protect themselves from the current variants.

“The vaccine is still very good against the Delta strain, and all the other strains,” Norman said. “We want to have the school year start off and be as normal of a school year as possible. To have anyone that can receive the vaccination that is twelve and older to be vaccinated.” 

The state board of education provides safety recommendations for schools and what’s enforced is determined at the local level. For those who are not vaccinated, health officials are encouraging social distancing and wearing masks to stay safe.

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