Unvaccinated Missourians fuel COVID: 'We will be the canary'
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — As the U.S. emerges from the COVID-19 crisis, Missouri is becoming a cautionary tale for the rest of the country: It is seeing an alarming rise in cases because of a combination of the fast-spreading delta variant and stubborn resistance among many people to getting vaccinated.
Intensive care beds are filling up with surprisingly young, unvaccinated patients, and staff members are getting burned out fighting a battle that was supposed to be in its final throes.
The hope among some health leaders is that the rest of the U.S. might at least learn something from Missouri's plight.
“If people elsewhere in the country are looking to us and saying, ‘No thanks' and they are getting vaccinated, that is good," said Erik Frederick, chief administrative officer at Mercy Hospital Springfield, which has been inundated with COVID-19 patients as the variant first identified in India rips through the largely non-immunized community. “We will be the canary.”
The state now leads the nation with the highest rate of new COVID-19 infections, and the surge is happening largely in a politically conservative farming region in the northern part of the state and in the southwestern corner, which includes Springfield and Branson, the country music mecca in the Ozark Mountains where big crowds are gathering again at the city's theaters and other attractions.
While over 53% of all Americans have received at least one shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most southern and northern Missouri counties are well short of 40%. One county is at just 13%.
Cases remain below their winter highs in southwestern Missouri, but the trajectory is steeper than in previous surges, Frederick said. As of Tuesday, 153 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized at Mercy...