Missouri becomes ground zero for COVID-19 battle
More than half the population has not taken a COVID-19 vaccine in Missouri, which is dealing with one of the worst situations with the coronavirus across the country.
As parts of the United States emerge from the pandemic, other sections of the country are experiencing a very different reality with the virus. Few states illustrate the divide better than Missouri.
The state has the second most cases per capita next to neighboring Arkansas, according to the database kept by The New York Times.
The Missouri Health Department has recorded a total of 533,670 coronavirus cases as of Friday, an increase of 1,544 from the day before.
According to KMBC 9 News, this is the third day in a row that the state had more than 1,000 new infections.
According to state data, only 45.1 percent of the population has initiated vaccination, and 39.6 percent have been fully inoculated.
Hospitals in the state have reported being drained by the surge in infections, and having to quickly adapt.
And the state’s problems are likely growing worse because of the delta variant, which is becoming more and more common across the country and has the power to spread quickly through unvaccinated communities.
“This is a mass casualty event, happening in slow-motion,” Springfield, Mo., Fire Chief Dave Pennington said on Twitter. “EMS resources are depleted, and the hospital systems are overwhelmed. Our community is in crisis.”
The state has also been on the front lines of the political disputes over the coronavirus as some Republican officials across the country have criticized the Biden administration’s focus on getting people vaccinated.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) this week slammed the White House over its door-to-door vaccination campaign in underserved communities, which is part of the administration’s efforts to deal with outbreaks in hot spot areas.
He also directly took on Pennington’s remark, saying Friday that the state’s “health care system remains stable.”
State officials had requested help last week, and a member of a federal coronavirus “surge response” team arrived this week to provide epidemiological support.
Vaccines have proven to prevent the spread of the virus, and cities and states with high rates of vaccinations have lifted restrictions and generally not slid back into the situations facing states such as Missouri and Arkansas.
Yet Parson pushed back on the Biden administration’s door-to-door coronavirus vaccination strategy, arguing that it was not a “welcome strategy.”
He suggested people in his state did not want federal officials visiting them.
“I have directed our health department to let the federal government know that sending government employees or agents door-to-door to compel vaccination would NOT be an effective OR a welcome strategy in Missouri,” Parson tweeted.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the door-to-door campaign was being led by local people, and Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, later pushed back on the suggestion that federal employees were going door-to-door to encourage vaccination.
“For those individuals, organizations that are feeding misinformation and trying to mischaracterize this type of trusted-messenger work, I believe you are doing a disservice to the country and to the doctors, the faith leaders, community leaders, and others who are working to get people vaccinated, save lives, and help end this pandemic,” Zients said in a briefing.
Missouri health officials said Friday that the White House hasn’t told them how the response teams might work, but that federal officials agreed that people from out of state could not go in to convince residents to get vaccinated.
It’s far from just Missouri that is dealing with a serious situation on the coronavirus.
According to an analysis from USA Today, cases are trending upward in nearly half of all U.S. states. Nevada’s COVID-19 positivity rate has exceeded 8 percent for the first time since February, with the surge due in part to the delta variant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the variant now accounts for a majority of the cases in the U.S.
But experts still say that the best way to protect against the variant is getting vaccinated. And there remains a red/blue divide when it comes to vaccinations.
The 21 states with the highest vaccinations rates in the country, according to the Times database, were all won by President Biden. The 19 states at the bottom were all won by Trump.