(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Buchanan County's low vaccination rates and rising COVID-19 cases has area health professionals concerned ahead of the anticipated arrival of the Kansas City Chiefs for training camp.
Chiefs fans are crossing their fingers their favorite football team returns to St. Joseph for training camp this summer after the COVID-19 pandemic took away the opportunity last year.
KQ2 reached out to Chiefs officials for an update on training camp. Team officials said the Chiefs are still working out their schedule and have no comment at this time.
While there's still no official word yet, St. Joseph Mayor Bill McMurray said die-hards should expect a great summer.
“Oh, I think it’s a good chance that they’ll be coming and I anticipate an announcement in the near future,” said Mayor McMurray.
However, those keeping an eye on Buchanan County's rising coronavirus cases are raising a red flag. Dr. Gary Clapp, an associate professor at Missouri Western State University, has been tracking COVID-19 cases for St. Joseph city leaders.
Dr. Clapp said MWSU, which hosts the Chiefs training camp, is worried the county's low vaccination rate could possibly jeopardize players' health. As of Monday, 20.7% of Buchanan County residents are partially vaccinated.
“That’s a real concern for us," said Dr. Gary Clapp, "We don’t want to get them sick, we want them to repeat what they did two years ago.”
With news of the Delta variant likely in Buchanan County, according to the state's "Sewershed Surveillance Project." The presence of the highly transmissible variant ups the stakes for the Chiefs safety and the thousands of fans who travel to St. Joe for training camp.
St. Joseph's Health Director, Debra Bradley, said, “We believe, we do not have confirmation, but we believe we have variants here in Buchanan County. Now, the Chiefs I would anticipate would want to protect their players like I want to protect my staff, my community. I want people vaccinated and I can see them wanting that as well.”
Ahead of the promising return of the Chiefs to MWSU, the university will be closely watching COVID cases over the next 30 days and strategizing their next play if things get worse.
“We’re working on those details with the Chiefs to make sure that nothing gets from our audience to the Chiefs,” said Dr. Clapp.
If the Chiefs take the field at MWSU next month, health officials urge football fans to protect themselves, their neighbors and the Kansas City Chiefs.
“So, if people want the Chiefs to come to St. Joe, it would likely benefit to get more people vaccinated because our rate right now, it’s really low. It’s not a good sign for our community. We need to do better and we can do better,” said Bradley.
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