News Briefs

Missouri vaccine rollout continues as counties face deadline for spending COVID funds

By: - December 16, 2020 10:12 am

Alvin “Bob” River receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 15, at Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital in Columbia. River will turn 100 on Christmas Day. (Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital photo via Twitter)

Rollout of the first COVID-19 vaccine continued in Missouri on Tuesday with a veteran who will celebrate his 100th birthday on Christmas getting a shot and the University of Missouri receiving its first shipment.

The rush to get the vaccine to frontline caregivers and high-risk individuals isn’t the only thing accelerating as the end of the year approaches. On Tuesday, the Boone County Commission awarded $3.7 million in federal CARES Act funds to 17 local agencies, the Columbia Missourian reported.

All CARES Act funds must be spent or committed by Dec. 30 or they must be returned to the federal treasury.

The veteran who received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the only one approved so far for use in the United States, was Alvin “Bob” River, 99. He was the first patient vaccinated at Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital in Columbia.

Truman Veterans Hospital did not provide other details about River, but the facility has been treating dozens of COVID-19 patients in recent weeks. The hospital does not report its COVID-19 patient numbers directly, but the Columbia-Boone County Health Department reports total hospitalizations in the county and the two other hospitals, MU Hospital and Boone Hospital Center, do report so the number can be calculated.

On Tuesday, while River was receiving his shot, there were 86 patients in the other hospitals and 138 hospitalized people in the county, meaning about 52 were being treated in the veterans hospital.

MU Health Care received 3,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and will use it to inoculate 900 employees starting Wednesday.

The rollout of the vaccine comes as Missouri is seeing a slow decline in the number of cases reported daily by the Department of Health and Senior Services. There were 2,673 new COVID-19 infections reported Wednesday, the fourth consecutive day with fewer than 3,000 new cases.

There had not been four days in a row with fewer than 3,000 new cases since Nov. 1 to Nov. 4. The seven-day average of reported cases is 3,170, down from 3,639 a week ago.

The department reported 45 additional deaths on Wednesday, bringing the state total to 4,799. That is 1.36% of the 353,028 total cases reported by the state.

There were new cases reported in 110 of 117 local health jurisdictions on Wednesday and the positive rate on tests remains high at 17.8%. The highest positive rate over the past seven days is in Mississippi County in the Missouri Bootheel, at 46.4% and 71 local health departments had positive rates at or above the state average.

With its allocation of CARES Act funding on Tuesday, Boone County has allocated $9.5 million of the approximately $21 million it received, the Missourian reported.

The money was distributed through the state treasury and during the recently concluded special legislative session, lawmakers included a provision for accepting the money back if unspent. The state intends to deposit its unspent CARES Act funds in the state’s unemployment compensation fund if no other use is found.

County officials expect to allocate remaining local funds before the deadline, the Missourian reported.

In the Kansas City region, health officials are asking people to limit gatherings as Christmas and New Year’s Day approaches, the Kansas City Star reported.

The Thanksgiving holiday has been followed by increased activity such as shopping and gatherings and health officials worry that will allow the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 to spread easily, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Lee Norman said.

“It’s really a blur of a holiday and not a point on the calendar,” Norman said, the Star reported. “The admonishment is still the same: Be very cautions and minimize the mass gatherings.”

On Tuesday, the Kansas City metropolitan, which includes portions of eastern Kansas, area added 700 COVID-19 cases, as well as an additional 32 deaths related to the disease. Kansas City and Jackson County each recorded eight deaths, 11 were in Johnson County, and five in Clay County.

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget, energy and the legislature. He’s spent 22 of his 30 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics, most recently as the news editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune. Keller has won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.