As COVID-19 cases increase due to the omicron variant, sufficient testing supplies are becoming a point of concern.
The rural health department of Daviess County has stopped receiving antigen testing kits from the Missouri Department of DHSS and now only has around 100 kits remaining. The health department has decided to only vaccinate those who are symptomatic and within the county. DHSS spokeswoman Lisa Cox said they are seeing a significant shortage in the rapid antigen testing kits, but the supply remains strong for the PCR test, and the state will be conducting testing events to deal with the demand.
“We have under 100 test kits. We don’t have that many and we ordered pretty frequently,” Daviess County Health Administrator RaCail King said. “We try to keep it down to a minimum of so many a day, and we definitely screen them and make sure they are the ones that need it the most.”
Urgent Care Express has been a popular place in St. Joseph for people to receive a COVID-19 test, although there have been long wait times as demand increases, according to owner and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Shafe. He said supply has been steady for now.
“The illness isn’t just for the symptomatic, and I hope we never run so low that we have to start triaging who gets tested and who doesn’t. I really hope to avoid that question,” Shafe said.
Mosaic Life Care has a supply of COVID-19 tests stockpiled up to 90 days and has instituted a new testing hotline at 855-577-0211 in order to get people tested in the right location.
Sean Poellnitz, vice president for supply chain at Mosaic Life Care, said the stockpile for testing and personal protective equipment is essential.
“The demand has gone up. What we do initially is that when we first forecast that there’s a supply that will be in hot demand, we do a bulk buy to get our supplies at a level where we have security inventory, and then after that, we make a purchase every month,” Poellnitz said.
Cox said the increase in statewide testing has been linked to the omicron variant and the state will start conducting testing sites, such as the one from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Jan 23 at Remington Nature Center.
“We are at a point where we kind of have to triage again who gets testing and who maybe can wait a little while longer,” Cox said. “Those who have symptoms, for sure we would advise them to attempt to find a test, and for those who have a known exposure, we would ask them to wait until five days from that exposure if they’re not experiencing symptoms.”
After branching out last year, the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office is working to continue expanding its inmate trash clean-up program.
Since 2014, the sheriff’s office, along with the Buchanan County Commission, has used the inmate clean-up program to assist with picking up trash and other acts of community service.
According to a 2021 annual report written by Deputy Matthew Thornton, who oversees the clean-up crews, the program proved to be a valuable asset last year. When it was in operation, the program was able to broaden and help clean up at the Chiefs Training Camp.
“I think, each year, we actually build on what the previous year had done,” Thornton said. “Where we’d helped this past year at the Chiefs, helping out after the practice was done at the parking lots and the stadiums. And we just build up, I think, from there ... the sky’s the limit as far as if we get, you know, the good offenders in there that the program utilizes.
“Without them, the program wouldn’t be, so we’ve had some pretty good offenders in there to be able to help us branch it out,” he continued.
Thornton said the program was able to operate for two to three months in 2021.
From the county commission side, Western Buchanan County Commissioner Ron Hook works with the program.
Hook said they are collaborating with Sheriff Bill Puett in part because there is a shortage of staff at his department, which was the case last year. He said they hope to get the clean-up crew outside at least three times a week.
“We’d like to get five days a week back,” Hook said. “But we’d be satisfied with three days a week. I think we could stay up with it.”
In 2021, Hook said that Thornton and his crew got out to work about a third of the time in which they would normally be out working.
Moving forward, Thornton said they are going to strive to do the same thing that they have done with the inmate clean-up crew. With the department’s staffing situation, he said there are days where he may have to fill in for a certain role. He said that once they get to where they want to be with staffing, then he will be able to be out for five days a week.
Thornton said that he thinks the clean-up crew is a valuable tool for the community. He said that he is anxious to get the program rolling again and so are the inmates involved.
“I think we’ve proven that, like I said, the sky is the limit to what we can do with even a small crew of four, that most of the crews I’ve had everybody pitches and does what they have to do to get, you know, whatever job we’re currently on done,” he said.
The city council announced Jan. 10 as “Brett Esely Day,” recognizing the St. Joseph native’s impact that dates back to the early 2000s.
The proclamation, signed off on by Mayor Bill McMurray, was sponsored by city council member Brenda Blessing and acknowledged at Monday’s city council meeting.
“When you think about your own day, you think about something heroic or lifesaving, and certainly I don’t know if any of this fits into that category,” Esely said. “It’s very humbling. It’s certainly a very unique honor, and it means something special to me just because I’m born and raised in St. Joe. I’ve lived here my entire life.”
Esely’s early work most notably centers around his furthering of Missouri Western State University athletics as a member of the administration in 2003 and taking on the role of external affairs in 2007, where he oversaw marketing, advertising and public relations, as well as event management and partnerships with large corporations.
Esely’s hand in event management included overseeing the event operations of Chiefs Training Camp, an occasion that brings in many out-of-state tourists to St. Joseph, as well as MIAA conference tournaments and NCAA tournament events.
“I just think his work needed to be recognized,” Blessing said. “He’s probably had opportunities to go elsewhere, but his heart is in St. Joseph.”
Esely has since left Missouri Western after over two decades of service. His newest adventure has brought him to the St. Joseph Convention and Visitors Bureau, where he serves as the director of development. Esely said what excites him about this new venture is that while his career background has mostly revolved around sports, he’ll get a chance in this new position to showcase the city to visitors who either spend a day, weekend or even a summer in St. Joseph.
“Right now, we’re just trying to expand on what’s next,” Esely said. “What’s somewhere outside of the community that we can bring to town, or what’s something that doesn’t even exist right now that can better our community, better our residents and in turn really continue to put St. Joseph on the map.”