Governor Laura Kelly’s intention to give the COVID vaccines to prisoners ahead of the elderly and others among the most vulnerable in the general population is misguided, and it’s not supported by the data.

To be clear – this isn’t about punishing prisoners; it’s about following the data.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment publishes cluster data every Wednesday that show 6,133 COVID cases at correctional facilities as of December 30; that’s 2.7% of total cases.  Only 62 of those cases – just 1% of all correctional cases – required hospitalization and there have been 14 deaths attributed to COVID, with a 99.8% survival rate.

The elderly population accounts for more than twice as many cases and outcomes are exponentially worse.

Adults 75-84 account for more cases (4.3% of the total), their hospitalization rate is 14 times greater (14.1% vs. 1% in correctional facilities), and with 851 deaths, adults 75-84 have a much lower survival rate (91.2% vs. 99.8%).

Adults 85+ have the worst survival rate of all ages and clusters, at 84%.  There are 1,108 deaths attributed to COVID for adults 85+, who are 80 times more likely to die if they catch the virus (16% of their cases vs. 0.2% in correctional facilities).

There’s not a shred of evidence in the data to support Kelly’s thinking, but this isn’t the first time her administration has treated the elderly as second-class citizens.  It’s also not the first time her policies were driven by a misreading of the data.

Kelly admin ‘encourages’ nursing homes to accept COVID patients

In June, the Sentinel discovered KDHE guidance that ‘encouraged’ nursing homes to accept COVID patients.

An April 27 memo, obtained by the Sentinel, states specifically: “Long-term care facilities in Kansas cannot and should not turn away new residents or refuse to re-admit previous residents for fear of COVID-19.”

KDHE says ‘cannot’ and ‘should not’ don’t amount to mandates or requirements, but just ‘encouragement.’

In September, Kelly again demonstrated disdain for nursing home residents and employees.  A legislative committee requested information from KDHE on personal protective equipment (PPE) distribution after hearing that nursing homes were having difficulty obtaining PPE from the state.

Governor Kelly ordered KDHE to refuse legislative requests for that information.

Prioritize the most vulnerable

COVID vaccines should be prioritized based on vulnerability, and the data clearly says adults 75+ are by far the most vulnerable, and that includes prisoners aged 75 or older.

Governor Kelly should prioritize based on data-driven vulnerability, and she should apologize to older Kansans for even thinking of treating them like second-class citizens.

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