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Missouri Is Fighting A Surge As New York Honors Health Workers

Missouri Is Fighting A Surge As New York Honors Health Workers

New York held a ticker-tape parade on Wednesday to honor the health care workers and others who helped the city get through the darkest days of COVID-19, while Missouri battled a surge blamed on the fast-spreading delta variant and widespread anti-vaccination sentiment.

The split-screen images could be a preview of what public health experts predict will befall the United States even as the economy recovers and life returns to normal: outbreaks in areas with low vaccination rates.

“We have a lot to be thankful for because we are well on our way to recovery,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who rode on a parade float with hospital employees down the Canyon of Heroes, the skyscraper-lined stretch of Broadway where astronauts, returning soldiers, and championship teams are honored.

Meanwhile, in Missouri, the Springfield area has been hit so hard that one hospital had to borrow ventilators over the Fourth of July weekend and begged on social media for help from respiratory therapists, several of whom volunteered from other states, while members of a new federal "surge response team" have also begun arriving to help suppress the outbreak.

Missouri not only leads the country in new cases per capita, but it also averages 1,000 cases per day, which is roughly the same as the entire Northeast, including major cities in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.

California, with a population of 40 million people, has slightly more cases than Missouri, which has a population of 6 million.

As a result of widespread acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine, cases, deaths, and hospitalizations in the Northeastern states have nearly disappeared.

Vermont has gone 26 days with new case numbers in the single digits, and the governor's office in Maryland said every death recorded in June was in an unvaccinated person. New York City, which was the lethal epicenter of the U.S. outbreak in the spring of 2020, when the number of dead peaked at over 800 per day, regularly goes entire days with no reported deaths.

According to health experts, the problem in Missouri is that only 45% of the state's residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to 55% of the US population, with vaccination rates in the teens and 20s in some rural counties near Springfield.

Simultaneously, the delta variant is quickly becoming the dominant strain in the state, with wastewater testing revealing that it is spreading from rural to more populated areas.

Mercy Hospital Springfield reported Tuesday that it had more than 120 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, the highest total since the pandemic began. Seventeen people died in the county that surrounds Springfield in the most recent two-week reporting period, the most since January, authorities said, and none were vaccinated.

Mercy's chief administrative officer, Erik Frederick, stated that staff members are frustrated because "this is preventable this time" thanks to the vaccine.

“We try to persuade people, but it's almost as if you're speaking a different language,” he lamented, “but there's no way they'll get a vaccine because their personal freedom is more important.”

Missouri, too, has never had a statewide mask mandate; in fact, Brian Steele, mayor of the Springfield suburb of Nixa, is facing recall after imposing a mask rule that has long since expired.

According to Ashley Kimberling Casad, vice president of clinical services at Springfield's other hospital, Cox South, several patients are in their 20s and 30s, and she was optimistic when she saw the COVID-19 numbers in May as she prepared to return from maternity leave.

“I really thought that when I returned from maternity leave, not that COVID would be gone, but that it would just be so manageable,” she said, adding that nearly all of the virus samples sent to the hospital for testing are proving to be the delta variant.

The Springfield school district reinstated the mask requirement for its summer program beginning Wednesday, citing an increase in cases.


The contrasting scenes in the United States occurred as the worldwide death toll from COVID-19 approached 4 million, according to Johns Hopkins University. COVID-19 deaths in the United States have dropped to around 200 per day, from a high of over 3,400 per day in January.

Nurses and doctors, emergency personnel, bus drivers and train operators, teachers, and utility workers were among those honored at the parade in New York.

“What a year can do,” said parade grand marshal Sandra Lindsay, a nurse who was the first in the country to receive a COVID-19 vaccine shot.

“Fifteen months ago, we were in a much different place, but we can’t thank so many people enough for their heroic efforts — health care workers, first responders, front-line workers, people who fed us, people who put their lives on the line.”

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