SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — One Missouri hospital official is telling anyone making disparaging remarks about the COVID-19 vaccine to “shut up” as state officials ask for federal help dealing with a surge in cases that has some counties urging new precautions.
Deep vaccine resistance has allowed the delta variant, first identified in India, to take hold in the state, straining hospitals, particularly in the Springfield area.
“If you are making wildly disparaging comments about the vaccine, and have no public health expertise, you may be responsible for someone’s death. Shut up,” tweeted Steve Edwards, who is the CEO of CoxHealth in Springfield.
CoxHealth and the city’s other hospital, Mercy Springfield, were treating 168 COVID-19 patients Friday, up from 31 on May 24, before the surge began, said Aaron Schekorra, a spokesman for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. He said that 36 of them were on ventilators.
Erik Frederick, the chief administrative officer of Mercy Springfield, also turned to Twitter in an effort to bolster vaccinations, noting that they prevent deaths.
“So if you’re vaccinated there is a light at the end of a tunnel,” he said. “If you’re unvaccinated that’s probably a train.”
State data shows that 44.6% of residents have received at least one shot, far short of the 54.7% rate nationally. And in more than 60 Missouri counties, less than 30% of the population had received their first shot, according to state data.
The situation has grown so dire that Missouri health officials announced Thursday that they were asking for federal help from newly formed surge response teams.
Meanwhile, St. Louis and St. Louis County health departments along with health officials in Jefferson County begged even immunized people to resume mask-wearing in public, citing the threat of the delta variant.
The Jefferson County Health Department’s advisory said children are being exposed to COVID-19 as they resume normal activities without protection. During the last two weeks, the number of new cases had increased 42%, with the highest number of cases among 10- to 19-year-olds.
“This is concerning,” the advisory said, “since most of that age group is eligible for the vaccine but only 10.82% have completed the full series of vaccination.”
In the southeastern part of the state, the Stoddard County Public Health Center this week asked residents to get vaccinated as officials grapple with climbing COVID-19 cases, including an outbreak at a nursing facility.
The center said Thursday that it was monitoring 33 cases — “up from the 5-10 we’ve been experiencing over the last few months.” The health center said that an outbreak at a nursing facility in Advance made up a “large portion” of cases, and that one resident who tested positive had died.