Health

COVID-19 cases in US triple over 2 weeks amid misinformation

In this Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, file photo doctors inject sisters Claudia Scott-Mighty, left, Althea Scott-Bonaparte, who are patient care directors, and Christine Scott, an ICU nurse, with their second shot of the Pfizer vaccine at NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital, in Bronxville, N.Y. The private New York-Presbyterian hospital system announced in June that it will require its 48,000 employees to be vaccinated unless they have a valid exemption. Workers in New York City-run hospitals and health clinics will have to get vaccinated or get tested weekly under a policy announced Wednesday, July 21, to battle a rise in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant. Credit: AP Photo/Kevin Hagen, File

COVID-19 cases tripled in the U.S. over two weeks amid an onslaught of vaccine misinformation that is straining hospitals, exhausting doctors and pushing clergy into the fray.

“Our staff, they are frustrated,” said Chad Neilsen, director of infection prevention at UF Health Jacksonville, which is canceling elective surgeries and procedures after the number of mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 inpatients at its two campuses jumped to 134, up from a low of 16 in mid-May.

“They are tired. They are thinking this is déjà vu all over again, and there is some anger because we know that this is a largely preventable situation, and people are not taking advantage of the vaccine.”

Across the U.S., the seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. rose over the past two weeks to more than 37,000 on Tuesday, up 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. Just 56.2% of Americans have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It is like seeing the car wreck before it happens,” said Dr. James Williams, a 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.”

COVID-19 cases in US triple over 2 weeks amid misinformation
In this Oct. 28, 2020, file photo, medical personnel don PPE while attending to a patient (not infected with COVID-19) at Bellevue Hospital in New York. Workers in New York City-run hospitals and health clinics will have to get vaccinated or get tested weekly under a policy announced Wednesday, July 21, 2021, to battle a rise in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant. Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File

He said the patients are younger—many in their 20s, 30s and 40s—and overwhelmingly unvaccinated.

“People were just begging for this,” he said of the vaccine. “And remarkably it was put together within a year, which is just astonishing. People don’t even appreciate that. Within a year, we got a vaccine. And now they are thinking, ‘Hmm, I don’t know if I will get it.'”

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

“I think there is a big influence of fear,” said Johnson, whose Springfield-based church also has a campus in Nixa and another about to open in Republic. “A fear of trusting something apart from scripture, a fear of trusting something apart from a political party they’re more comfortable following. A fear of trusting in science. We hear that: ‘I trust in God, not science.’ But the truth is science and God are not something you have to choose between.”

Now many churches in southwestern Missouri, like Johnson’s Assembly of God-affiliated North Point Church, are hosting vaccination clinics. Meanwhile, about 200 church leaders have signed onto a statement urging Christians to get vaccinated, and on Wednesday announced a follow-up public service campaign.

COVID-19 cases in US triple over 2 weeks amid misinformation
In this Jan. 10, 2021 file photo, Sarah Gonzalez of New York, a Nurse Practitioner, displays a COVID-19 vaccine card at a New York Health and Hospitals vaccine clinic in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Workers in New York City-run hospitals and health clinics will have to get vaccinated or get tested weekly under a policy announced Wednesday, July 21, to battle a rise in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant. Credit: AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File

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

“We found that the faith community is very influential, very trusted, and to me that is one of the answers as to how you get your vaccination rates up,” 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 traveling nurses and has 46 more scheduled to arrive by Monday.

“Grateful for the help,” wrote Edwards, who previously tweeted that anyone spreading misinformation about the vaccine should “shut up.”

In New York City, workers in city-run hospitals and health clinics will be required to get vaccinated or get tested weekly as officials battle a rise in COVID-19 cases, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

COVID-19 cases in US triple over 2 weeks amid misinformation
In this Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020, file photo a health worker prepares to administer a COVID-19 swab at a drive-thru testing site in Lawrence, N.Y. The the state Department of Health said a tiny fraction of vaccinated New Yorkers have tested positive for COVID-19. Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File

De Blasio’s order will not apply to teachers, police officers and other city employees, but it’s part of the city’s intense focus on vaccinations amid an increase in delta variant infections.

The number of vaccine doses being given out daily in the city has dropped to less than 18,000, down from a peak of more than 100,000 in early April. About 65% of all adults are fully vaccinated, but the inoculation rate is around 25% among Black adults under age 45. About 45% of the workforce in the city’s public hospital system is Black.

Meanwhile, caseloads have been rising in the city for weeks, and health officials say the variant makes up about 7 in 10 cases they sequence.

“We need our health care workers to be vaccinated, and it’s getting dangerous with the delta variant,” de Blasio told CNN.

In Louisiana, health officials reported 5,388 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday and said it’s the third-highest daily count since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020. Hospitalizations for the disease rose to 844 statewide, up more than 600 since mid-June.

COVID-19 cases in US triple over 2 weeks amid misinformation
In this June 4, 2020, file photo, health care workers at Brooklyn’s Kings County Hospital show their solidarity with Black Lives Matter during a demonstration in New York. Workers in New York City-run hospitals and health clinics will have to get vaccinated or get tested weekly under a policy announced Wednesday, July 21, 2021, to battle a rise in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant. Credit: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File

In New Orleans, officials weighed a possible revival of at least some of the mitigation efforts that had been eased as the disease was waning.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the city’s top health official, Dr. Jennifer Avegno, were expected to make an announcement later Wednesday. On Tuesday, Cantrell spokesman Beau Tidwell said “all options are on the table.”


US COVID cases rising rapidly as Delta dominates


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