September 16, 2023

A new wave of the COVID-19 virus is arriving in the Kansas City metro. In Eastern Jackson County (EJC), COVID-19 cases were twice as high in August as they were in June. Cases rose across all age groups in that same time frame.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations remain far below previous peaks seen during past summer and winter waves of the virus, but have been climbing steadily for several weeks. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expects those numbers to accelerate as it tracks the spread of three new COVID-19 variants around the country. “Jackson County Public Health is seeing an increase in testing demand, as well as an increase in positive cases,” says Amanda Fontaine, JCPH Health Services Manager. “Our patients have various respiratory symptoms, but we are seeing more people reporting conjunctivitis [pink eye] with this latest strain.”

To help combat the spread of the virus, Jackson County Public Health continues to offer a number of free COVID-19 services:
• Free drive-up COVID-19 PCR testing by appointment only
• Free at-home COVID-19 testing kits
• Free KN95 Masks
• Free updated COVID-19 vaccines for ages 6 months+ (arriving soon)
• Following the CDC’s approval on Tuesday, the latest version of the COVID-19 vaccine will soon be available at the clinic.

“We expect to have updated vaccines available at our clinic within the next few weeks. Until then, COVID-19 vaccinations are on hold,” says Fontaine. “That timing creates the perfect opportunity to pair your updated COVID-19 vaccine with a flu vaccine for the upcoming flu season. Both shots can be given at the same time.”

Updated for the 2023-2024 respiratory virus season, the new COVID-19 vaccine formulas from Pfizer and Moderna target the XBB.1.5 omicron subvariant. That’s no longer the dominant variant circulating, but those that are spreading are closely related, and vaccination remains critical to public health and continued protection against serious consequences of COVID-19.

At Jackson County Public Health, we strongly encourage those most vulnerable to COVID-19 to take precautions such as masking and avoiding crowded indoor spaces. High-risk groups include those who are older adults (ages 50+), are pregnant or recently pregnant, have weakened immune systems, or have certain underlying medical conditions.

If you test positive for COVID-19, stay home for at least 5 days and isolate yourself from others in your home. You are likely most infectious during these first 5 days. Follow the CDC’s recommendations, including:

Wear a high-quality mask if you must be around others at home and in public.

Do not go places where you are unable to wear a mask.

Stay home and separate from others as much as possible.

Monitor your symptoms. If you have an emergency warning sign (like trouble breathing), seek emergency medical care immediately.

Testing and vaccine appointments can be made online at In the coming weeks, JCPH is also planning to hold a free drive-thru flu and COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Eastern Jackson County. Information on this event will be announced via the website and social media.