MISSION, Kan. — Cases of COVID-19 have nearly tripled in the US in two weeks amid an onslaught of vaccine misinformation that’s straining hospitals, exhausting doctors and exasperating pastors. Pushing into the field.
“Our employees, they are disappointed,” said Chad Nielsen, director of infection prevention at UF Health Jacksonville, a Florida hospital that has had elective surgery and elective surgery after the number of mostly uninfected COVID-19 patients at its two campuses. Canceling procedures, which became 134. Above the low of 16 in mid-May.
“They’re tired. They’re thinking it’s happening all over again, and there’s some anger because we know it’s a largely preventable condition, and people aren’t taking advantage of vaccines.
Across the US, the seven-day rolling average for daily new cases rose over the past two weeks to more than 37,000 on Tuesday, down from 13,700 on July 6, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Health officials blame the delta version and slow vaccination rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 56.2% of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
In Louisiana, health officials reported 5,388 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday – the third-highest daily count since the start of the pandemic in early 2020. Hospitalizations for the disease rose to more than 600 across the state by 844 since mid-June.
Utah reported 295 people hospitalized due to the virus, the most since February. The state has recorded an average of about 622 confirmed cases per day in the past week, which is three times the infection rate in early June. Health data shows that the boom is almost entirely related to unrelated people.
“It’s like seeing a car wreck before it happens,” said Dr. James Williams, 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 highly unrelated.
As head pastor of one of Missouri’s largest churches, Jeremy Johnson has heard the reasons congregations don’t want a COVID-19 vaccine. He wants them to know that it is not okay to get vaccinated, which is what the Bible urges.
“I think fear has a big impact,” said Johnson, whose Springfield-based church also has a campus in Nixas and another is about to open in the Republic. “The fear of trusting anything other than scripture, the fear of trusting anything other than a political party that they more readily follow. Fear of trusting science. We hear that: ‘I trust God, not science.’ But truth is science and God is not something you have to choose.
Now several churches in southwestern Missouri, such as Johnson’s Assembly of God-affiliated North Point Church, are hosting vaccination clinics. Meanwhile, nearly 200 church leaders have signed a statement urging Christians to get vaccinated, and on Wednesday announced a follow-up public service campaign.
According to a 2019 report from the Pew Research Center, opposition to vaccination is particularly strong among white evangelical Protestants, who make up more than a third of Missouri residents.
“We found the faith community to be very influential, very trustworthy, and to me that’s an answer to how you increase your vaccination rates,” said Springfield Mayor Ken McClure.
Two hospitals in his city are full of patients, reaching record and near-record pandemic highs. Steve Edwards, CEO of CoxHealth in Springfield, tweeted that the hospital has brought in 175 traveling nurses and as of Monday 46 more.
“Grateful for the help,” wrote Edwards, who previously tweeted that anyone spreading misinformation about the vaccine should “shut up.”
Jacob Bermud, a 40-year-old Kansas City, Missouri, artist, said his mother is promoting vaccine conspiracy theories, even though her husband — Bermud’s stepfather — is hospitalized on a ventilator in Springfield.
“It’s really, really sad, and it’s really disappointing,” he said.
Bermud recalled how his mother had recently fallen ill and “was trying to tell me that the people who vaccinated made her sick, and it wasn’t even COVID. I just put her off.” I said, ‘Mom, I can’t talk to you about conspiracy theories right now.’ … you have to go to the hospital. You’re going to die.”
His mother, who is in her 70s, has since recovered.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that in New York City, workers at city hospitals and health clinics will need to be vaccinated or get tested weekly as officials report a surge in COVID-19 cases.
De Blasio’s order will not apply to teachers, police officers and other city employees, but it is part of the city’s intense focus on vaccination amid a rise in Delta-type infections.
The number of doses of vaccines administered daily in the city has fallen to less than 18,000, down from a peak of more than 100,000 in early April. Systems leader Dr. Michelle Katz said that about 65% of all adults are fully vaccinated, compared to about 60% of public hospital system staff.
Meanwhile, caseloads have been rising in the city for weeks, and health officials say the variant makes up about 7 out of the 10 cases they index.
“We have to deal with it aggressively,” he said. And finally, there’s also a thing called personal responsibility,” de Blasio said, urging vaccinated people to raise the issue with unvaccinated relatives and “get up to their faces.”
Back in Louisiana, officials in New Orleans strongly recommended that people resume wearing masks indoors. Mayor LaToya Cantrell on Wednesday downplayed the requirement for masks. She said the new advice “puts the responsibility on the individuals themselves, rather than the city enforcing the mandate.”
Salter reported from St. Louis.