Opinion

Kyle Troutman: Navigating the delta

Saturday, July 10, 2021

A week ago, my wife, daughter and I sat down for lunch at a local Monett eatery, discussing the topics of the day as we waited for our meal to be delivered.

We were discussing the COVID-19 vaccine rates and the latest news on the delta variant, specifically the Tweet from CoxHealth President Steve Edwards telling vaccine nay-sayers to “shut up.”

At 36 weeks pregnant now, my wife is noticeably glowing, and though we thought our conversation was just between us, an eavesdropper at the next table had heard at least the general topic.

“I don’t mean to be rude,” she said. “But I was listening and I have to ask, no one is making you get the vaccine are they, since you are pregnant?”

Without missing a beat, my wife responded, “No, I already got the vaccine. We talked to our doctor, and that’s what he recommended.”

The woman’s eyes got about as big as our plates, and she retreated back to her meal without another word on the subject.

Since the start of COVID-19 vaccinations, opinions have been mixed. About the time they began inoculations in February coincided with a two-week bout of ice and snow that kept many people at home, with both scenarios contributing to a massive dip in active and weekly cases that continued until recently.

From Jan. 27 to Feb. 17, Barry County went from 102 active cases to 27. Cases remained low, sometimes in the single digits, until about a month ago. At 115 this week, we’ve seen a 359 percent rise in the last three weeks.

At the start of June, I was almost justified in ending my weekly update stories — then the delta variant hit.

The India-based mutant is 225 percent more transmissible than the original strain, making it the most contagious on the planet.

Southwest Missouri is a center of the variant in the United States. Look no further than local hospitals for proof.

As of Thursday, Edwards reported Cox had 97 COVID-19 inpatients, and two that died. On Wednesday, there were more than 100 inpatients and a dozen deaths.

Mercy is in the same boat, with more than 100 patients this week and no more ventilators available. Dr. Will Sistrunk, infectious disease specialist at Mercy, said about 97 percent of the hospital’s 120 patients were not vaccinated, and the 3 percent who were generally did not experience severe symptoms or need ICU care.

Missouri’s caseload in the last week is the second-highest in the country, with 15.5 new cases per 100,000 people each day. You also don’t have to go far to find the highest rate — Arkansas with 15.7 new cases per 100,000.

So, what’s the best way to steer clear of the strain? The answer is overwhelmingly clear — get vaccinated.

As of Friday, Missouri is ranked 38th in the nation with 39.52 percent of eligible people vaccinated. Arkansas is 49th with 34.68 percent. Preliminary CDC data shows 99.5 percent of deaths in the past few months were among the unvaccinated.

Locally, many cite the “dangers” of the vaccine and believe it was too quickly produced to be safe. They cite the CDC Wonder Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System to back up claims that people are suffering choosing to be inoculated.

The use of that system is so prevalent, I have started including VAERS data in my weekly update.

As of this week, there are 78 events reported where death was a result, possibly in relation to a vaccine. A report is not conclusive evidence the vaccine was the cause of death, but for the sake of argument, let’s say that it is. In that case, 1 in every 37,719 have died from the vaccine.

When it comes to COVID-19, the percentage of those infected —and dying — is astronomically higher. In Barry County, 1 in 10.5 people have caught the virus, and 1 in 56.75 of those have died.

In all of Barry County right now, 1 in every 598 people have caught COVID and died from it.

Edwards had strong words for vaccine deniers on July 1, after having four pediatric patients at Cox, one of whom was only weeks old.

“If you are making wildly disparaging comments about the vaccine, and have no public health expertise, you may be responsible for someone’s death,” he said. “Shut up.”

The effectiveness of the vaccine has led Mercy to order all employees to be vaccinated by Sept. 30, or face possible termination.

Brent Hubbard, Mercy Springfield president, said about 75 percent of its 40,000-strong workforce has been vaccinated.

Kaitlyn McConnell, CoxHealth system director of public relations, said about 63 percent percent of Cox’s employees have been vaccinated, and about 92 percent of its physicians.

For the thousands of you still skeptical about getting a vaccine, I urge you to consider it. U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt this week implored residents to get vaccinated.

“I think the vaccine is safe,” Blunt said. “I got it the first day I was eligible to get it. Everybody in my family, I believe, got it the first day they were available to get it. It looks like, as new information is coming around, this vaccine is likely to last more than one year, and may last a lot more than one year. COVID and its variants are going to be around a while. Protect yourself, protect the people around you. If you haven’t had a doctor tell you you should not get the vaccine, my advice would be, get the vaccine.”

If none of the above reasons implore you to get vaccinated, do the most basic of research — ask your doctor. With a history of blood clots, that’s what I did. Being in the middle of a pregnancy, that’s what my wife did.

We trust our local health officials and doctors to guide us in the right direction. If we want COVID to become part of history and not the continually running, divisive topic it has become, we all have to do our part.

Kyle Troutman has served as the editor of The Monett Times since 2014. In 2017, he was named William E. James/Missouri Outstanding Young Journalist for daily newspapers. He may be reached at 417-235-3135 or editor@monett-times.com.

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