Virus cases in the United States almost tripled in 2 weeks amid misinformation

Doctors inject sisters Claudia Scott-Mighty, left, Althea Scott-Bonaparte, who are directors of patient care, and Christine Scott, an intensive care nurse, with their second injection of the Pfizer vaccine at the New York-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital, in Bronxville, NY on January 8, 2021 (Kevin Hagen, Associated Press)

MISSION, Kan. – COVID-19 cases have nearly tripled in the United States in two weeks amid a wave of vaccine misinformation that is straining hospitals, exhausting doctors and pushing clergy into the fray.

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

“They are tired. They think this is déjà vu again, and there is some anger because we know this is a largely preventable situation and people are not benefiting from the vaccine. . “

In the United States, the seven-day moving average for daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks to more than 37,000 on Tuesday, 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. 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 on Wednesday reported 5,388 new cases of COVID-19 – the third highest daily number since the pandemic began in early 2020. Hospitalizations for the disease rose to 844 statewide , more than 600 since mid-June. New Orleans rulers have urged people to resume wearing masks indoors.

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

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

He said patients are younger – many in their 20s, 30s and 40s – and largely unvaccinated.

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

“I think there is a great influence of fear,” said Johnson, whose Springfield-based church also has a campus in Nixa and one about to open in Republic. “A fear of trusting something outside of the scriptures, a fear of trusting something outside of a political party that they are more comfortable following. A fear of trusting science. We hear it: ‘I trust God, not science.’ But the truth is science and God is not something for you to choose. “

Now, many churches in southwest Missouri, such as the North Point Church affiliated with Johnson’s Coven, are running immunization clinics. Meanwhile, around 200 religious leaders signed a statement urging Christians to get vaccinated, and announced a follow-up public service campaign on Wednesday.

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

“We have found that the faith community is very influential, very trustworthy, and for me that is one of the answers as to how you increase your immunization rates,” 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 itinerant nurses and 46 more are expected 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 artist in Kansas City, Missouri, said his mother was promoting vaccine conspiracy theories even though her husband – Burmood’s stepfather – was hospitalized on a ventilator in Springfield.

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

We have found that the faith community is very influential, very trustworthy, and for me that is one of the answers as to how you increase your immunization rates.

–Ken McClure, Mayor of Springfield

Burmood recalled how her mother had recently fallen ill and “was trying to tell me that the vaccinated people made her sick, and it wasn’t even COVID.” I just closed it. on conspiracy theories right now. … You have to go to the hospital. You are going to die.

Her mother, who is 70, has since recovered.

In New York City, workers at city-run hospitals and health clinics will need to get vaccinated or tested every week as authorities fight an increase in COVID-19 cases, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday. .

De Blasio’s order won’t apply to teachers, police and other city employees, but it’s part of the city’s intense focus on vaccinations amid a rise in delta-variant infections .

The number of vaccine doses administered daily in the city fell to less than 18,000, from a peak of more than 100,000 in early April. About 65% of all adults are fully immunized, compared to about 60% of staff in the public hospital system, said system chief Dr Mitchell Katz.

Meanwhile, the number of cases has been rising in the city for weeks, and health officials say the variant accounts for around 7 in 10 cases they are sequencing.

“We have to deal with it aggressively. And at the end of the day, there is also a thing called personal accountability,” de Blasio said, urging those vaccinated to raise the issue with unvaccinated relatives and to “stand up. at nose”.

Back in Louisiana, New Orleans officials released the new indoor mask guidelines, hoping to avoid the type of virus-related closures that devastated the city’s tourism economy in 2020. Mayor LaToya Cantrell did not ask for masks. She said the opinion “puts the responsibility on the individuals themselves”.

The announcement came as the city’s seven-day average of new cases rose to 117, the highest level since early February. It had fallen as low as eight by mid-June.

Salter reported from St. Louis.


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