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US virus cases nearly triple in 2 weeks amid misinformation

Johnson




- Data Covid-19 USA — 

MISSION, Kan. — COVID-19 cas­es near­ly tripled in the U.S. over two weeks amid an onslaught of vac­cine mis­in­for­ma­tion that is strain­ing hos­pi­tals, exhaust­ing doc­tors and push­ing cler­gy into the fray.

“Our staff, they are frus­trat­ed,” said Chad Neilsen, direc­tor of infec­tion pre­ven­tion at UF Health Jack­sonville, a Flori­da hos­pi­tal that is can­cel­ing elec­tive surg­eries and pro­ce­dures after the num­ber of most­ly unvac­ci­nat­ed COVID-19 inpa­tients at its two cam­pus­es jumped to 134, up from a low of 16 in mid-May.

“They are tired. They are think­ing this is déjà vu all over again, and there is some anger because we know that this is a large­ly pre­ventable sit­u­a­tion, and peo­ple are not tak­ing advan­tage of the vaccine.”

Across the U.S., the sev­en-day rolling aver­age for dai­ly new cas­es rose over the past two weeks to more than 37,000 on Tues­day, up from less than 13,700 on July 6, accord­ing to data from Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty. Health offi­cials blame the delta vari­ant and slow­ing vac­ci­na­tion rates. Just 56.2% of Amer­i­cans have got­ten at least one dose of the vac­cine, accord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Prevention.

In Louisiana, health offi­cials report­ed 5,388 new COVID-19 cas­es Wednes­day — the third-high­est dai­ly count since the begin­ning of the pan­dem­ic in ear­ly 2020. Hos­pi­tal­iza­tions for the dis­ease rose to 844 statewide, up more than 600 since mid-June.

Utah report­ed hav­ing 295 peo­ple hos­pi­tal­ized due to the virus, the high­est num­ber since Feb­ru­ary. The state has aver­aged about 622 con­firmed cas­es per day over the last week, about triple the infec­tion rate at its low­est point in ear­ly June. Health data shows the surge is almost entire­ly con­nect­ed to unvac­ci­nat­ed people.

“It is like see­ing the car wreck before it hap­pens,” said Dr. James Williams, a clin­i­cal asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of emer­gency med­i­cine at Texas Tech, who has recent­ly start­ed treat­ing more COVID-19 patients. “None of us want to go through this again.”

He said the patients are younger — many in their 20s, 30s and 40s — and over­whelm­ing­ly unvaccinated.

As lead pas­tor of one of Missouri’s largest church­es, Jere­my John­son has heard the rea­sons con­gre­gants don’t want the COVID-19 vac­cine. He wants them to know it’s not only OK to get vac­ci­nat­ed, it’s what the Bible urges.

“I think there is a big influ­ence of fear,” said John­son, whose Spring­field-based church also has a cam­pus in Nixa and anoth­er about to open in Repub­lic. “A fear of trust­ing some­thing apart from scrip­ture, a fear of trust­ing some­thing apart from a polit­i­cal par­ty they’re more com­fort­able fol­low­ing. A fear of trust­ing in sci­ence. We hear that: ‘I trust in God, not sci­ence.’ But the truth is sci­ence and God are not some­thing you have to choose between.”

Now many church­es in south­west­ern Mis­souri, like Johnson’s Assem­bly of God-affil­i­at­ed North Point Church, are host­ing vac­ci­na­tion clin­ics. Mean­while, about 200 church lead­ers have signed onto a state­ment urg­ing Chris­tians to get vac­ci­nat­ed, and on Wednes­day announced a fol­low-up pub­lic ser­vice campaign.

Oppo­si­tion to vac­ci­na­tion is espe­cial­ly strong among white evan­gel­i­cal Protes­tants, who make up more than one-third of Missouri’s res­i­dents, accord­ing to a 2019 report by the Pew Research Center.

“We found that the faith com­mu­ni­ty is very influ­en­tial, very trust­ed, and to me that is one of the answers as to how you get your vac­ci­na­tion rates up,” said Ken McClure, may­or of Springfield.

The two hos­pi­tals in his city are teem­ing with patients, reach­ing record and near-record pan­dem­ic highs. Steve Edwards, who is the CEO of Cox­Health in Spring­field, tweet­ed that the hos­pi­tal has brought in 175 trav­el­ing nurs­es and has 46 more sched­uled to arrive by Monday.

“Grate­ful for the help,” wrote Edwards, who pre­vi­ous­ly tweet­ed that any­one spread­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion about the vac­cine should “shut up.”

Jacob Bur­mood, a 40-year-old Kansas City, Mis­souri, artist, said his moth­er has been pro­mot­ing vac­cine con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries even though her hus­band — Burmood’s step­fa­ther — is hos­pi­tal­ized on a ven­ti­la­tor in Springfield.

“It is real­ly, real­ly sad, and it is real­ly frus­trat­ing,” he said.

Bur­mood recalled how his moth­er had recent­ly fall­en ill and “was try­ing to tell me that vac­ci­nat­ed peo­ple got her sick, and it wasn’t even COVID. I just shut her down. I said, ‘Mom, I can’t talk to you about con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries right now.’ … You need to go to a hos­pi­tal. You are going to die.”

His moth­er, who is in her 70s, has since recovered.

In New York City, work­ers in city-run hos­pi­tals and health clin­ics will be required to get vac­ci­nat­ed or get test­ed week­ly as offi­cials bat­tle a rise in COVID-19 cas­es, May­or Bill de Bla­sio said Wednesday.

De Blasio’s order will not apply to teach­ers, police offi­cers and oth­er city employ­ees, but it’s part of the city’s intense focus on vac­ci­na­tions amid an increase in delta vari­ant infections.

The num­ber of vac­cine dos­es being giv­en out dai­ly in the city has dropped to less than 18,000, down from a peak of more than 100,000 in ear­ly April. About 65% of all adults are ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed, com­pared with about 60% of pub­lic hos­pi­tal sys­tem staffers, said sys­tem leader Dr. Mitchell Katz.

Mean­while, case­loads have been ris­ing in the city for weeks, and health offi­cials say the vari­ant makes up about 7 in 10 cas­es they sequence.

“We have got to deal with it aggres­sive­ly. And in the end, there is also a thing called per­son­al respon­si­bil­i­ty,” de Bla­sio said, urg­ing inoc­u­lat­ed peo­ple to raise the issue with unvac­ci­nat­ed rel­a­tives and “get up in their face.”

Back in Louisiana, New Orleans offi­cials strong­ly rec­om­mend­ed that peo­ple resume wear­ing masks indoors. May­or LaToya Cantrell stopped short Wednes­day of requir­ing masks. She said the new advi­so­ry “puts the respon­si­bil­i­ty on indi­vid­u­als them­selves, rather than hav­ing the city enforce a mandate.”

___

Salter report­ed from St. Louis.

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