MISSION, Kan. (AP) — COVID-19 cases in the United States
have more than tripled in the last two weeks, owing to an onslaught of vaccine misinformation
that is straining hospitals, exhausting doctors, and bringing clergy into the fray.
"Our staff is frustrated," said Chad Neilsen, director of infection prevention at UF Health Jacksonville
, a Florida
hospital that is canceling elective surgeries and procedures after the number of mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 inpatients at its two campuses jumped to 134, up from 16 in mid-May.
“They are tired; they are thinking it is déjà vu all over again, and there is some rage because we know this is a largely preventable situation, and people
are not taking advantage of the vaccine.”
According to data from Johns Hopkins University
, the seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the United States increased over the last two weeks to more than 37,000 on Tuesday, up from less than 13,700 on July 6, blaming 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.
, health officials reported 5,388 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the third-highest daily count since the pandemic
began in early 2020, and hospitalizations for the disease increased to 844 statewide, an increase of more than 600 since mid-June.
“It’s like seeing the car wreck before it happens,” Dr. James Williams, a clinical associate professor of emergency medicine at Texas Tech
who has recently begun treating more COVID-19 patients, said. “None of us want to go through this again.”
He claims that the patients are younger, with many in their twenties, thirties, and forties, and that they are almost entirely unvaccinated.
"People were 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're thinking, 'Hmm, I don't know if I'll get it.'"
As the lead pastor of one of Missouri
's largest churches, Jeremy Johnson has heard the reasons why people are opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine
, and he wants them to know that getting vaccinated is not only acceptable, but also mandated by the Bible.
“I think there is a big 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 other than scripture, a fear of trusting something other than 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.
Many churches in southwestern Missouri, including Johnson's Assembly of God-affiliated North Point Church, are now hosting vaccination clinics, and about 200 church leaders have signed a statement
urging Christians to get vaccinated, and a follow-up public service campaign was announced on Wednesday.
According to a 2019 Pew Research
Center report, anti-vaccination
sentiment is especially strong among white evangelical Protestants, who account for more than one-third of Missourians.
“We discovered that the faith community is very influential and very trusted, and to me, that is one of the answers as to how you get your vaccination rates up,” said Springfield Mayor
The two hospitals in his city are teeming with patients, with pandemic levels reaching record
and near-record highs. Steve Edwards, 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.
"Thank you for your assistance," Edwards wrote, adding that anyone spreading misinformation about the vaccine should "shut up."
As officials battle
an increase in COVID-19 cases, workers in city-run hospitals and health clinics in New York City
will be required to be vaccinated or tested weekly, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday.
The order issued by De Blasio does not apply to teachers
officers, or other city employees, but it is part of the city's increased focus on vaccinations
in response to an increase in delta variant infections.
The number of vaccine doses distributed daily in the city has dropped to less than 18,000, down from a peak of more than 100,000 in early April
. While approximately 65% of all adults are fully vaccinated, the rate of inoculation among Black
adults under the age of 45 is around 25%.
Meanwhile, caseloads in the city have been increasing for weeks, and health officials estimate that the variant accounts for roughly 7 out of every 10 cases sequenced.
“We need to vaccinate our health-care workers because the delta variant is becoming dangerous,” de Blasio told CNN
Back in Louisiana, officials in New Orleans
considered resuming at least some of the mitigation efforts that had been scaled back as the disease progressed.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Dr. Jennifer Avegno, the city's top health official, were expected to make an announcement later Wednesday; Cantrell spokesman Beau Tidwell said on Tuesday that "all options are on the table."
Salter was in St. Louis
at the time of the report.