Jul 13, 2021 6:52 PM

Local officials express concern, urge vaccination with COVID numbers rising

Posted Jul 13, 2021 6:52 PM
Stock photo.
Stock photo.

By TOMMY REZAC

St. Joseph Post

COVID cases continue to spike across portions of Missouri, including in the northwest region where vaccination rates remain low.

In Buchanan County, 176 new cases were reported from July 8-12, and 135 more were reported on Tuesday alone.

Mosaic Life Care is currently treating 53 COVID patients - 51 in St. Joseph and two in Maryville. This comes as less than 20 percent of Buchanan County is fully vaccinated.

St. Joseph City Councilmember Kent O'Dell says a full return to normalcy and reaching herd immunity cannot be achieved if more people don't get vaccinated.

"Unfortunately in Missouri, Arkansas and a few other states, they have hard-headed people that have decided they don't want to get a vaccination and that's holding us up," he said. "We can't reach herd immunity if everyone's just going to reserve the right to not get a vaccination and stay away from herd immunity, which we're all dying to have."

O'Dell says he and other councilmembers have been receiving a lot of emails and comments from constituents who are concerned about the rising level of cases and hospitalizations.

While reimplementing restrictions and mandates doesn't appear to be on the table any time soon, O'Dell simply urges those in St. Joseph and the surrounding area to do their part in stopping the pandemic.

"Vaccines work," he stated. "It's your choice to not have a vaccine, so be it. You choose the bed you lay in, but you're holding back everybody else."

In Andrew County, there have been 87 new cases since July 1, with 68 cases currently active - some of the highest daily rates in the county since late December and early January.

Jayne White, nurse manager at the Andrew County Health Department, says they have a vaccine clinic on a weekly basis in Savannah, and also work with faith-based groups and others to get the shot out to those who need it.

She says the rising number of cases has encouraged more people to at least consider the vaccination after being initially hesistant.

"It has increased our vaccination uptake here," White said. "We've had more people coming for vaccines or at least calling and asking about it. So, I'm hopeful that's part of it as well. People just thought it was going to go away on its own."

Over 4,400 people, or 25.2 percent of Andrew County residents, have completed vaccination. While the health department has advocated for mandates and restrictions before, White says getting out of this pandemic will come down to personal responsibility.

"Let's be honest, I don't really know if (restrictions) worked the first time," she said. "Kind of like vaccines. They're either going to take it or they're not. So, I think the message has to be clear. This is what is best and this is how you can protect yourself, and we have to be accountable for our actions."

You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post.