Community Memorial Healthcare continues to accept names for its list of local residents interested in getting a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.

Meanwhile, the county health officer says a faster-moving variant of COVID-19 is expected to spread nationwide by March.

CMH has a Vaccine Readiness Hotline at 785-562-4474 where local residents can leave a message to be recorded into a database. They ask that callers give their name, date of birth, phone number and name of their primary care physician on the voicemail system.

The hospital plans to use the list and work with the Marshall County Health Department to determine when and how vaccines will be administered to the general public.

This depends on when vaccines become available. Shipments of the vaccine for public immunizations have not yet arrived here. Sue Rhodes, Marshall County Health Department director, said she’s still not heard from the state on when to expect them.

She hopes to receive more information late this week from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment on the state’s next phase in the vaccine process.

Currently health care workers are being immunized as well as elder residents and staff of senior care facilities. The state has graduated phases that determine which Kansans will receive the vaccine next, based on age, health status and job.

Masks work

Rhodes is pleased with the effectiveness of the mask mandates in Marysville and Marshall County. Marysville’s mask mandate comes with a fine for those who fail to comply, while the county’s does not.

Both appear to be effective, she added, as the number of positive cases were lower over the weekend. Rhodes said five people tested positive daily on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

“There have been a lot of negatives,” she said of testing, which the health department began to offer in recent weeks. CMH also continues testing people.

Last Thursday, Marshall County’s active case count was 40 with 28 pending tests. The death toll had remained at 22.

Statewide numbers continued to climb this week with more than 259,822 total positives and 3,525 deaths.

Fast-moving variant

Dr. John Ryan, CMH physician and the county’s public health officer, says the faster-spreading variant, B117, makes it easier to get infected.

Ryan said it is proving to be up to 50 percent more infectious because it attaches more easily to receptors.

“It’s in 10 states right now and is expected to be universal by March in the U.S.”

That will likely boost case numbers and number of deaths. Not because it is more deadly in makeup but because of its ease in passing among people.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has not reported any cases of B117 in the state yet, nor in neighboring states except Colorado. But the agency is urging people to be diligent, wear masks, wash hands frequently, social distance and avoid crowds.

“Marshall County’s been pretty good recently,” Ryan said of case decline. “But this variant could make a difference over the next month or two.”

Cases continue to grow rapidly elsewhere in the country and much of Kansas.

“It’s disheartening that the state has such a marked increase in deaths,” he said. “The state lab is watching for this new variant.”

Rhodes said the vaccine will protect against the variant. But she suggests people be cautious and continue to wear masks even if they’ve been immunized.