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County accepting COVID-19 vaccine interest forms

CLAY COUNTY — Officials in county public health are offering a way for those who live and/or work in Clay County to express their interest in getting vaccinated against COVID-19. This form can be completed by anyone, regardless of which state priority phase they may fit in.

“For those who complete the form, the information provided will be used by (Clay County Public Health Center) to let them know when they are eligible to be vaccinated. It may also be used to send details for how to register for vaccination with CCPHC or with another vaccine provider,” states a CCPHC release.

Completion of this form does not guarantee COVID-19 vaccination from CCPHC and is not a means of registration for vaccination.

“Vaccination may also be available through other health care providers, mass vaccination clinics, a retail pharmacy like CVS or Walgreens or through employers,” states the release.

Complete the Clay County COVID-19 Vaccination Interest Form going online to hipaa.jotform.com/210138520201032.

While Missouri has activated Phases 1A and 1B — Tiers 1 and 2 of vaccine distribution, the local health center currently has a limited vaccine supply and is only vaccinating those in Phase 1A, which includes health care workers facing patients. Phase 1B Tier 1 focuses on first responders, public health professionals not facing patients and emergency management and public works employees. Phase 1B — Tier 2 focuses on those 65 and older and those at increased risk including people with chronic disease, pregnancy, weakened immune systems or intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

“We have administered 232 COVID vaccines so far,” said Clay County Public Health Center spokesman Kelsey Neth Tuesday, Jan. 19. “We are actively working to dramatically increase vaccination capability across the county, but we do not have a specific date determined when we will be vaccinating outside of the Phase 1A group.”

One reason for the lag at the county level is supply is limited from state and federal distribution channels.

“Another reason is that even though our team of nurses, registration staff and more are working tirelessly to make appointments to vaccinate people quickly and safely, the demand for vaccination is extremely high right now. The wait for vaccination could be weeks or even months for some people,” states a release on the county health center site.

Community leaders are joining efforts to support an efficient COVID-19 vaccination plan for Clay County residents. Partnering with the Clay County Public Health Center to implement Operation Safe Community are Liberty Hospital, the city of Liberty, William Jewell College, Liberty Public Schools and Clay County Emergency Management.

The goal of Operation Safe Community is to provide those eligible with an opportunity to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.

“This task force will leverage our community’s existing networks, capabilities and partnerships in medical expertise, emergency management and logistical support,” said Liberty Hospital President and CEO David Feess. “We are unified in our goal to ensure the health and safety of our community, and we believe a collaborative approach is the best way to facilitate a successful vaccination plan.”

Clay County Public Health Center Director Gary Zaborac said the overall rollout and distribution of vaccines to states and regional public health agencies like the one he helms has been slower than anyone would like, but he’s hopeful that distribution will begin to “improve significantly over the coming weeks.”

“It’s important to emphasize that we are following the state’s plan for vaccinating people in phases per risk category. Additionally, the vaccine storage requirements — the requirement of two doses and the requirement that people have to be monitored for 15 minutes after each shot — are added logistical challenges that makes this effort unique compared to other vaccination efforts we have had to undertake in the past,” he said.

A list of vaccinators and regional vaccine implementation teams is available at MOstopsCovid.com. The state health department encourages employers and associations representing individuals in activated phases to use the list to connect with a vaccinator or regional vaccine implementation team in their area and make a plan for vaccinating their teams.

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‘Took us by storm’
Kearney family copes with loss of father to COVID-19
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KEARNEY — After a whirlwind battle Leonard Hunt fought and lost to COVID-19, his family wants the community to learn from their loss.

“People do not take it seriously enough, they really don’t,” said Hunt’s son, Matt Hunt. “I pray that people take this more seriously and do what they need to protect themselves. COVID doesn’t discriminate. It comes for you if you are young and if you are old. It comes for you whether you are healthy or not.”

The Hunt family isn’t alone. Since the pandemic began, more than 400,000 Americans have lost their lives to the disease.

Leonard, a dedicated family man, loyal friend and hardworking employee at Ford Motor Co. is described by his family as being a spry and healthy 71, someone who worked 12-hour shifts most days of the week to still come home and help family with other projects. Matt said doctors told his father before COVID that he had the body of a man at least 20 years younger. His father, Matt said, was never the type one would think of as being weak or that would lose a battle with the virus.

“We are all still in shock,” said Matt. “This virus took him by storm. It took us by storm, our whole family.”

Hunt said his parents were diagnosed with COVID-19 around Dec. 23 and their symptoms had been relatively mild until Christmas Day, when his father complained of not being able to breathe properly. Leonard was transported by ambulance to a local hospital.

Matt said his father was a fighter who had everything to live for and did his best to win his battle with COVID-19. The family did their best too, holding out hope and having a drive-thru prayer vigil for Leonard in the parking lot of Kearney’s First Missouri Bank where roughly 100 people showed support and offered words of encouragement to the family. The family also held off on celebrating Christmas, New Year’s and he and his wife’s wedding anniversary, hoping Leonard would get well and return home.

“He couldn’t have any visitors for 20 days. He was two days away from that marker. He was two days away from when someone could’ve gone in and sat with him,” said Matt of the day his father died in early January.

Because Leonard was in a COVID-19 isolation unit in the hospital, Matt said when the end was near, his mother was allowed in the area, but had to wear a biohazard suit and couldn’t hold her husband’s hand. The Hunt children, which includes Matt’s sister Megan Perry, were there digitally as his mother held an iPad during the visit that they watched from a vehicle in the parking lot.

“It just doesn’t make sense for someone to go through this and have to die alone. It’s just devastating. My mother had to walk down that hall and out of the hallway in that hospital alone,” said Matt. “Going from COVID is the worst way to go because it’s so upsetting for the person and their loved ones because they can’t hold them, they can’t get that closure. We are still in shock.”

While his family is grieving a suffering a terrible loss, Matt said his family is comforted knowing his father got to see a video of the prayer vigil multiple times, even playing it for his doctors. Leonard, Matt said, even passed along some last words of encouragement to his son and family.

“This town will take care of us, that this community will take care of us,” said Matt.

The Hunts will also always have wonderful memories and the legacy the husband, father and grandfather left behind. To keep that legacy alive, Matt said he is doing everything he can to help others learn about the seriousness of COVID-19.

“Hold your family close. If you truly care about them, you’ll take it seriously,” he said.

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Hail to the Chief
Liberty native performs during Biden inauguration
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Master Gunnery Sgt. and Liberty native Leslye Barrett, who plays the oboe, will represent the Northland and mark her fifth presidential inauguration performance as she joins the rest of the “President’s Own” United States Marine Band to play during Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony as the nation’s 46th president Wednesday, Jan. 20.

“It never gets old to be performing at an inauguration,” said Barrett, who will be seated directly beneath the inaugural platform with the rest of the Marine Band. “I always get emotional. Each inauguration had its own flavor. I promised myself never to get jaded, to take a breath and enjoy being part of the historic event.”

Barrett comes from a musical family that includes retired Liberty Junior High Principal Robert Litle and the late Guylene Litle, her mother, who taught piano lessons in Liberty until her passing. The Liberty native attended Alexander Doniphan Elementary, Liberty Junior High and two years at Liberty High before graduating from Interlochen Arts Academy in Interlochen, Michigan, in 1990. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in performance from Southern Methodist University in Dallas and in 1996, a Master of Music degree in performance from Arizona State University in Tempe.

Barrett joined the Marine band in February 1997 and was appointed section leader in December 2004.

“My dad still lives in Liberty and I have sisters, a niece and nephew also in the Kansas City area,” said Barrett after the band’s Tuesday, Jan. 19 rehearsals that included time with pop superstar Lady Gaga. Gaga performed the National Anthem during Biden’s inauguration.

The band performed “Hail to the Chief” to honor Biden immediately after he has taken the oath of office.

“We play the piece many times, but this first time for the new president is quite an honor,” said Barrett said.

The band accompanied Gaga, who Barrett said is “so gracious.”

“When I do performances like this, I think of my mother and what her reaction would be,” Barrett said.

As the historic day approaches, Barrett said she knows the music and is prepared for the cold weather.

“We play outside all year round,” she said. “I know it’s going to be an early morning, especially to go through security. We all are ready and I know I will focus on my small part to do for the inauguration.”

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Wausau Homes builder opens design studio in Smithville
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SMITHVILLE — Adam Campbell arrived in Smithville about five years ago from Savannah, Georgia to get involved in the real estate market. He became a real estate agent as well as a home remodeler. He even has flipped houses.

Now, Campbell has opened a design studio as an area builder and owner in partnership with Wausau Homes out of Rothschild, Wisconsin.

On Saturday, Jan. 16, Campbell opened his design studio at 14820 Shamrock Way, Unit B2, for an open house.

“Wausau Homes was looking for builders in the area and I saw the opportunity,” he said. “I am excited for this partnership and even more excited about the building system. We build walls in a panel system. The doors and windows are set in. Then the trusses are built. The system of building and framing, to me, is the way homes should be built.”

Campbell said panels and trusses are shipped to site and then a crane offloads them.

“Once the site is prepped and the pad is poured, framing with those panels can be up in 24 hours,” he explained. “Then it becomes a regular build with the necessary siding, roof installation, drywall and such. We aren’t modular and we don’t build the entire house in a warehouse, but it is a customized build.”

Campbell said another aspect to Wausau Homes is that there is a redefinition of what the building experience is.

“We spend a lot of time working through all the details and pricing out everything,” he said. “It’s every detail from the cabinets to the floors to the hardware around the home. There is a 3D movie created so that the homebuyer can walk inside and outside of the house.”

Wausau Homes has been building custom homes in partnership with independent local builders throughout the Midwest for more than 50 years.

“By partnering with Wausau Homes and opening this design studio, I am able to give customers a stress-free building experience different than anything out there today,” said Campbell.

After nearly four years of partnership between Clay County, area residents and the city of Smithville, the Clay County Dog Park had a ribbon cutting at the Little Platte South Trail Access at the corner of Litton Way and Old Jefferson Highway near Smithville Lake. Former Eastern County Commissioner Luann Ridgeway; John Davis, county director of Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites; and Smithville Mayor Damien Boley participated in the ribbon cutting for the new amenity in December. The park has separate spaces for small and large dogs, but is not open to the public yet as the city is still working to install waterlines. Details on the opening date will be published when available.