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U.S. COVID-19 cases triple in 2 weeks amid misinformation

MISSION, Kan. (AP) – COVID-19 cases have 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 is canceling 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’re tired. They think it’s déjà vu again, and there’s some anger because we know it’s a largely preventable situation, and people are not benefiting from the vaccine.”

In the United States, the seven-day moving average for new daily 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 across the country. State, more than 600 since mid-June.

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 the 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 another about to open in Republic. “A fear of trusting something outside 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 this: “I trust God, not science. But the truth is science and God is not something for you to choose. “

Today, many churches in southwestern Missouri, such as the North Point Church affiliated with Johnson’s Coven, hold vaccination 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 particularly 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 town 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.

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 shut it up. I said, ‘Mum, I can’t talk to you about 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 workers, 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 vaccinated, but the inoculation rate is about 25% in black adults under 45. About 45% of the city’s public hospital system workforce is black.

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

Back in Louisiana, officials in New Orleans considered a possible resumption of at least some of the mitigation efforts that had been relaxed as the disease waned.

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


Salter reported from St. Louis.

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