Today, as our community receives its first rounds of the COVID-19 vaccine, the beginning of this pandemic couldn’t feel more distant. Over the last ten months, our community has come together in an incredible way—driven by the shared goal of defeating this virus. While hope appears to be around the corner, we want to take a look back at what our community has accomplished together.
March of 2020 began just like any other month. However, in less than two weeks, Wyandotte County reported the first death due to COVID-19 in Kansas. Around this time, clusters of COVID-19 infections began to develop in communities across the state. Within days, stay-at-home orders went into effect, and life as we knew it was dramatically altered. As the number of new cases continued to rise across the state, disparities in the number of new cases, deaths, and access to affordable testing became evident. Wyandotte County and specifically its Black and Brown residents were disproportionately becoming infected and dying from COVID-19. This type of inequity in health outcomes, while not new, was incredibly alarming. As a clinic, we understood that we needed to act quickly if we hoped to slow the spread of the virus and protect our community’s health.
Within days, we joined the newly formed Health Equity Task Force to ensure access to free COVID-19 testing for those hardest hit, including the African American, Latinx, and refugee populations. This task force was made up of members from the local health department, clinics, hospitals, and diverse community partners from local churches and community-based organizations. By April 20th, Vibrant Health hosted its first drive thru testing event at All Saints Parish located in the heart of Kansas City, Kansas. At this point, we recognized that testing needed to be free and quite literally within reach for everyone in our community. We agreed to host pop-up drive-thru testing events in neighborhoods across the community to reduce the barrier that transportation plays in accessing care. By April 20th, Vibrant Health hosted its first drive thru testing event at All Saints Parish located in the heart of Kansas City, Kansas.
At this point, we recognized that testing needed to be free and quite literally within reach for everyone in our community. We agreed to host pop-up drive-thru testing events in neighborhoods across the community to reduce the barrier that transportation plays in accessing care.
By the summer, we had increased the number of our weekly testing events—hosting an average of five pop-up events at local churches, schools, and businesses. At this time, we also began to offer testing for asymptomatic individuals. Throughout the fall and winter, in addition to pop-up testing events, we turned our focus to increasing access to rapid COVID-19 testing at our clinics and providing free food and flu shots for those in need at several testing sites.
Around the holidays, we made a point of providing free turkeys to families for their holiday dinners—recognizing that anything we could do to give some sense of normalcy during the holiday season was worth trying.
Today, we have tested more than 6,000 community members at 132 pop-up testing events in neighborhoods across Wyandotte County. Looking forward, we are excited to provide vaccinations to our patients and partner with the local health department to support vaccine distribution efforts in our community while also continuing to offer free COVID-19 testing at our pop-up events.
In the last year, we have seen partners in health, government, business, and faith come together to help fight this pandemic. We have seen organizations step up and provide support to those who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. We have seen our frontline workers bravely risk their health to keep our community safe. This year challenged us in ways that we could have never imagined, but we are confident that we will be stronger because of it. While we have a long way to go in the fight against COVID-19, we know that brighter days are ahead, and we will be here every step of the way.