(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Buchanan County's COVID-19 surge comes at the wrong time as the Kansas City Chiefs return to St. Joseph this week for training camp.
Monday, Chiefs officials held a joint news conference alongside Mosaic Life Care and Missouri Western State University. The organizations addressed the challenges and changes COVID-19 will bring to training camp this summer. The main difference with this year's camp will be the elimination of fan and player interaction.
This will be the first Chiefs Training Camp to return to MWSU after the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the Chiefs 2020 Super Bowl win and back-to-back appearances, St. Joseph is expecting the arrival of thousands of Chiefs fans for the month-long camp to a county largely unvaccinated. As of Monday, 22.3% of Buchanan County is partially vaccinated.
“With the right protocols and the right precautions, this can be done safely,” said Dr. Edward Kammerer, Mosaic Life Care's Chief Quality Officer.
Despite the county's low vaccination rates and increasing cases and hospitalizations, top health officials at Mosaic Life Care remain cautiously optimistic ahead of camp.
Dr. Kammerer said training camp does not have to become a superspreader event, but said it all comes down to the fans.
“We would expect if people don’t adhere to the procedures, if we don’t take our own precautions by washing our hands and wearing our face masks when necessary, we would anticipate an increase. That is not an inevitable consequence though, we can do this,” said Dr. Kammerer.
Chiefs President, Mark Donovan, encouraged fans to get vaccinated as the virus' presence took away the one thing both fans and players look forward to the most.
“One of the best things about camp is the interaction between fans and players. That’s not possible. Unfortunately, we aren’t going to be able to do autographs after every practice like we used to,” said Mark Donovan, Chiefs President.
Donovan said while Chiefs fans at training camp won't be able to have their favorite players sign their Chiefs gear one-on-one like before, fans will be entered in to win autographed merchandise through way of their required camp tickets.
Chiefs fans can expect training camp to be different this summer, but Donovan said this summer's camp will be a test for how this upcoming football season will play out for both the players and Chiefs Kingdom.
“We’re actually really interested to see how this goes. It’s going to be different, but there’s going to be a lot of things that are the same. It will be interesting to watch, " said Donovan, "One of the lessons we took from COVID last year is just be prepared, things change everyday.”
The full training camp schedule can be found here.