It’s Morning Edition on KRPS; I’m Fred Fletcher-Fierro. A week from today many schools throughout Southwest Missouri will open for the 2021-2022 academic year. In the background, the Delta variant of the coronavirus is killing people faster at any time since vaccines have been widely available. At a special session of the Joplin School Board held last Friday night, the board decided to make masking in most circumstances voluntary. At a Friday press briefing, Freeman Health System CEO and President Paula Baker said the hospital had 60 COVID-19 patients with 8 on ventilators. Baker shared other sobering news.
“Sadly, we have had 15 deaths in just the last week with unvaccinated patients. And 24 in the last 15 days. So, this is definitely an issue that we need to take seriously”.
She also revealed that she has received hateful letters, emails, and phone calls discouraging her from asking that people be vaccinated against COVID-19. While she believes that everybody has a right to express their beliefs, Baker says she is not backing down from encouraging Southwest Missouri residents to protect themselves from a disease that has contributed to the deaths of 153 Joplin residents.
“I want to go on record as saying, I will not back off from encouraging people to get the vaccine. It is very much a Freeman Health Systems goal, always our mission to protect the people in our local communities, and the vaccine is the best tool we have right now to fight against COVID-19”.Paula Baker
It appears that a majority of Joplin residents agree with Paula Baker. According to numbers from the Missouri Department of Health Sunday, Joplin leads Missouri in the number of residents who have their first visit shot, at over 57.3%. The city also is number 1 in residents who have completed their COVID-19 inoculations at 48.7% or almost 25,000 of the city’s 51,000 citizens. Meanwhile, Newton and McDonald counties combined have an average of 18.95% completing their COVID-19 doses. That’s a nearly 30% drop in COVID vaccination rates. Director of COVID Services at Freeman Dr. Robert McNab speaking Friday about the status of the pandemic in Southwest Missouri.
“What we can say about the Delta variant 2 or 3 months into having see the patients who have gotten this infection is that it is definitely far more infectious than what we were seeing a year ago. The population that’s being infected is a much younger and healthier population and they’re getting much sicker”.Dr. Robert McNab
McNab revealed Friday that 1 in 5 of all COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized at Freeman die. He called the mortality rate “abysmal”. I asked Dr. McNab for a mortality rate of an illness or circumstance people are familiar with. He told me he would do some research on the topic and get back to me. Later on Friday, he texted me an article from the Journal of the American Medical Association that said between 12 and 20% of heart attack victims pass away. If you are unvaccinated you have a better chance of surviving a heart attack than COVID-19 right now. According to McNab, increasing the vaccination rate is key to at least slowing the pandemic to a manageable level.
“You know, we need to get people vaccinated and we need to slow down the transmission rate because these variants are definitely prolonging this pandemic and making it more difficult to save and protect the health of the community members the way we really need to”.Dr. Robert McNab
McNab says there is one similarity that he has seen time and again in recent COVID patients. Obesity. He’s spoken with and worked on patients who perceive their risk of severe illness due to the disease as slow. And if they did get the infection they would probably do fine with it because they have weathered other health issues. McNab says that isn’t the case with COVID-19.
“I can tell ya, there are plenty of 50-year old folks who are many 20-30 pounds overweight from what they should be. Which I think described a large amount of our community members. There’s a lot of us, who have kind of drifted a little bit with their body mass. And so that risk is much higher than they’re really perceiving”.Dr. Robert McNab
Director of COVID Services at Freeman Health System in Joplin speaking Friday about the state of COVID-19 in Southwest Missouri. For 89 9 KRPS, I’m Fred Fletcher-Fierro