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COVID-19 showing the show-me state


So many people are going to find out the implications of anti-vaxxism as constitutive of conservatism the hard way:

Daryl Barker was passionately against a COVID-19 vaccination, and so were his relatives. Then 10 of them got sick and Barker, at just 31, ended up in a Missouri intensive care unit fighting for his life.

It’s a scenario playing out time and again at Lake Regional Hospital in Osage Beach, where 22 people died from the virus in the first 23 days of July. Many other hospitals across Missouri are fighting the same battle, the result of the fast-spreading delta variant invading a state with one of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates, especially in rural areas.

The Associated Press was given access inside Lake Regional, where just two months ago, no one was hospitalized with the virus. Doctors, nurses and staff at the hospital in the heart of the Lake of the Ozarks region are now dealing with an onslaught of COVID-19 patients — some of them struggling to stay alive.

“We’ve had a big-time delta virus surge here. A lot of admissions, a lot of people who are very sick and are dying,” said Dr. Harbaksh Sangha, Lake Regional’s chief medical officer.

“So as a human being it’s very frustrating, but as a physician we just take care of whatever we get.”

Just 47.5% of Missourians have initiated vaccination, nearly 10 percentage points less than the nation as a whole. Around Osage Beach, a town of about 5,000 people that straddles two counties, state data shows only 38.6% of Camden County residents and 26.7% in Miller County have started the process.

Barker, of Branson, about 120 miles (190 kilometers) southwest of Osage Beach, understands the hesitancy.

“I was strongly against getting the vaccine,” Barker said through labored breathing. “Just because we’re a strong conservative family.”

People have agency, but my contempt for the conservative elites who have fostered these beliefs while quietly getting vaccinated themselves, and opposing policies that would increase vaccinations, is boundless.

I just hope more people will start reaching this conclusion before they get gravely ill themselves:

On a sweltering day, they sat outside the ICU in lawn chairs, looking at Daryl through glass. Every now and then, Brody walked up to the window and waved to his dad, who smiled and waved back. Billie used a dry erase marker to scrawl “I love you” backwards on the glass so her husband could read it.

“I don’t ever want to have to do this again,” she said, “and if that means getting a vaccination to prevent something like this, that’s what I’ll do.”

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