|COVID clusters that threaten health across U.S.|
Missouri leads the nation in new COVID-19 cases, thanks largely to low vaccination rates and the emerging Delta variant. The state also is among five undervaccinated COVID clusters -- all in the Southeast, Midwest, and Southwest -- that could give rise to a new surge to threaten the health of the entire nation, according to an analysis by Georgetown University researchers. But Missouri's Republican governor is pushing back against federal efforts to enhance vaccination rates. Is Gov. Mike Parson practicing a form of "stupidity on steroids," placing GOP "principles" over matters of life and death?
That seems to be a reasonable question to ask, given that Parson appears to be out of touch with reality, even denying his state's hospitals are overloaded due to COVID and in a state of crisis -- contrary to the words of those who lead those facilities. From a report at ky3.com in Springfield, MO, where we live:
The Ozarks surge in new COVID-19 cases and low vaccination rates continue to draw national attention.
On Thursday public information officers at Cox, Mercy and the Springfield-Greene Co. Health Department confirmed that they are being inundated with media requests from both national and state outlets and a study by Georgetown University led to this headline all across the country:
“Five Undervaccinated Clusters Put the Entire United States at Risk”
The story shows five circles that cover parts of eight states, all in the southern part of the U.S., including southwest Missouri and northern Arkansas. The research by Georgetown found that because of their low vaccination rates, around 30 counties in these areas are vulnerable to outbreaks that could end up as breeding grounds for another nationwide surge.
“These clusters of unvaccinated people are what is standing in the way of us putting this virus down permanently,” said Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, in an interview with CNN.
At a national news conference on Thursday the White House COVID-19 Response Team announced that the more transmissible Delta variant is now the most prevalent strain in the country, especially in the Midwest where CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Wolensky said, “The Delta variant accounts for approximately 80 percent of cases. This rapid rise is troubling. We know that the Delta variant has increased transmissibility and is currently surging in pockets of the country with low vaccination rates.”
That would be Springfield and Greene County, where the rate is below 40 percent and the federal government is sending one of its first COVID-19 surge response teams in Missouri.
The surge response teams were announced by President Biden as a way to provide federal help to states with high rates of new cases and low vaccination rates.
Does Gov. Parson welcome such help, no matter how badly it's needed? Not exactly. From ky3.com:
Speaking in Kansas City, Missouri Governor Mike Parson said, “Right now there’s only one federal employee in the state doing the same thing they were doing before when we had the outbreak in southwest Missouri.”
But in a Facebook post on Wednesday night Parson sent out word that he does not want the surge team’s strategy to include going door-to-door asking people to get vaccinated.
“I have directed our health department to tell the federal government that sending employees or agents door-to-door to compel vaccination would NOT be an effective OR welcome strategy in Missouri.”
Parson later expanded on those remarks:
“I object to the federal government coming in and going door-to-door to anyone’s houses in Missouri,” he said. “But I want to be clear too. Regardless of whether it’s President Trump’s administration or President Biden’s, we’ve had federal authorities on the ground and we want them here to assist. But it depends on what that role is. I don’t think we need to be out there trying to scare people into taking a vaccine.”
Whatever gave Parson the notion that the feds were seeking to "compel" or "scare" Missourians into getting vaccinations? That's not clear, but Jeff Zients, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, had this to say:
“We are working with local health officials and getting more treatments for people with COVID,” he explained. “And helping states increase vaccine confidence, answer questions and expand access to vaccinations and testing.”
Zients even responded to Parson's concerns about a door-to-door approach:
“As part of our efforts trusted messengers may go door-to-door,” he said. “Doctors, faith leaders and community leaders that people look to for this type of advice. And we’ve seen movement by going person-by-person. This is important work that is leading to more vaccinations. So for those that are feeding misinformation and trying to mischaracterize this type of trusted messenger work, I believe you are doing a disservice to the country.”
That's a polite way of saying Parson is a whack job, which appears to be true, based on this report about the challenges facing Missouri hospitals, especially in the southwest corner of the state:
The surging COVID-19 case loads are draining resources and drawing out wait times in emergency rooms across the Ozarks.
Hospitals across the Ozarks say the recent spike is having an impact on just how soon they get to patients. A spokesperson with CoxHealth told KY3 response efforts these days are consumed by very fluid situations. The hospital has had to quickly adapt, and in some cases send COVID-19 patients outside the area to get care.
In one case, a COVID-19 patient was sent to Dallas, Texas. While Mercy has not sent patients out of the area, both hospitals say emerging needs are taking a toll across the board.
“Patients are much sicker than the patients we’ve been seeing in the past,” Mercy Springfield nurse Tracy Hill said on Thursday. “That cuts down the nurse to patient ratio.”
The spreading delta variant is now why local hospitals describe the area as the “heart” of COVID-19. There are now more cases, higher illnesses, and not enough medical staff.
”Math will tell you we can’t take care of as many patients when they’re that sick,” Hill said.
Has any of that made an impact on Gov. Parson? Apparently not:
While local hospitals say Southwest Missouri is in the middle of a crisis, Gov. Mike Parson said the contrary on Thursday.
”The hospitals are not overwhelmed at this point, or bed space, we know that looking at the data everyday,” Gov. Parson said. “We’re all concerned about the spike in the Delta variant, but to try to mislead people that we’re in a crisis is totally misleading. We’re not in a crisis mode in this state.”
The governor added that the focus should be on finding a solution on getting more people to take the vaccine. A spokesperson with CoxHealth said in the area is “in the middle of a crisis.”
Doctors with Cox said the crisis is one that even goes beyond the COVID-19 ICU.
”We’re seeing all of the regular problems that would bring patients to the emergency department, all those levels are essentially back to normal,” said Dr. Howard Jarvis, Medical Director of Emergency Departments for CoxHealth. “But on top of it you’ve got a really high COVID volume.”
Those patients have taken more time and more effort,which Jarvis said has certainly increased waiting time.”There’s still a limited number of beds, there’s a limited number of physicians, a limited number of nurses, so and quite honestly it takes quite a bit longer to see COVID patients than it does to see some other patients,” he said.
Many COVID-19 patients are now hospitalized for longer periods of time. Nurses with Mercy say a shortage of beds is not the biggest issue.
”It doesn’t matter if you have a thousand beds, if you don’t have nurses to take care of a thousand patients, and physicians for that matter, it doesn’t really matter how many beds you have,” Hill said.