Governor Mike Parson apparently fell over a spirit to end the year 2021. After two years of trying almost nothing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 16,000 Missourians, the governor switched to a new strategy: to wish it gone.
Parson called the old one and called into the new one – New Year’s Eve, to be exact – by declaring that the pandemic was no longer an emergency in the state of Missouri. Even the skeletal measures adopted by the state to resist COVID-19 would no longer be necessary.
Granted, the timing was a bit clumsy. In a perfect world, one might not choose a week in which one’s condition approached record levels of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, as the time to cancel the emergency. Would you?
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But Mike Parson is the man who coined the term “dang masks,” as in public health advice, “You do not need the government to tell you to wear a dang mask. If you want to wear a dang mask, take a mask on. ”
So let’s not call it shocking that Parson chose the worst possible moment to make, such as a forced error in judgment. Still, there was one line in the governor’s news release that popped up positively:
“Thanks to the effectiveness of the vaccine, widespread efforts to alleviate the virus and our dedicated healthcare professionals, the previous need to continue the state of emergency is no longer present.”
Yes, Parson went there: He used the V-word in a free context.
His previous references to the V-word had not been quite as luminous. You may remember some of these headlines:
“Parson announces Missouri National Guard to reduce COVID-19 vaccine support.” (May 11).
“Person signs bill banning vaccine passports.” (June 15).
“Person Against Federal Door-to-Door COVID-19 Vaccine Push” (July 8).
“Missouri Governor Clashes with Hospital Leaders over Vaccine Mandates” (July 14).
“Parson: Biden’s Vaccine Mandate is Unwelcome in Missouri” (September 9).
“Governor’s Decree and Missouri Trial Challenge Federal Contraceptive Vaccine Mandate.” (October 28).
Now, it should be noted that Parson has maintained a lukewarm pro-vaccine stance. He announced that he was vaccinated and has repeatedly “encouraged” Missourians to be vaccinated as the “responsible thing to do.” He even rolled out a state vaccine lottery – a lukewarm effort, to be charitable – that at least gave modest word of mouth to the jab.
But “scoreboard does not lie,” as they say. During the week that Parson used the phrase “thanks to the vaccine’s effectiveness,” the numbers were not nice.
From Dec. 30, Missouri will continue to rank close to the bottom of the barrel among states in vaccination rates. It is in a nation that is outrageously under where it should be initially with only 61.5 percent of Americans fully vaccinated, according to CDC statistics provided daily by the Becker Hospital Review.
Missouri’s vaccination rate of 52.7 percent of CDC polls ranks 40th out of 50 states (and behind DC). That is as much as 15 percent below the meager national average. It’s not a news flash that all the top twenty states in vaccination rates are the ones carried by President Joe Biden, and all but two of the bottom twenty (Nevada and Georgia) voted for the last man.
The political context might be rationalized to explain some of Parsons’ irrationality on the subject. But with everyone – including Parson – at least acknowledging that vaccines are the best hope to curb the spread of the omicron variant and COVID-19, it’s not a question of whose team is right.
It is a matter of life and death. Missouri has generally fallen close to the national median in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths throughout the pandemic – notable exceptions, such as last June, when it was the worst hot spot in the nation – but more than 16,000 of its souls died of the virus (conservative) in the last two years.
And a state of about 6 million people recently overshadowed the 1 million mark for COVID-19 infections during the pandemic. And things have never looked worse.
On the same day (last Thursday), when Parson announced that COVID-19 would no longer qualify as an emergency in Missouri, St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force that new hospital admissions rose to 169, up from 136 on Wednesday, representing a new record for COVID-19 admissions in one day, ”according to Stltoday.com.
And there was this: “Over the past week, hospital admissions have risen to 113 on Thursday from 105 on Wednesday. Across the region’s hospitals, bed capacity is 89%, with intensive care units at 80% of their total manned bed capacity, the task force reported.”
A great opportunity to declare that there is no emergency to be seen here anymore, do not you think?
Now, a counter-argument may be that these emergency statements are mostly symbolic and do not affect the results as much as Missouri’s pathetic record suggests. But do not tell it to the people in the front line. Missouri Hospital Association spokesman Dave Dillon suggests it means a lot, according to a report Thursday in the Missouri Independent:
“The most immediate effect will be on hospitals and other providers trying to cope with an increasing number of patients, while the omicron variant is spreading rapidly. The staff relief that will cease will come as staff shortages are exacerbated by staff infections,” he said. said Dillon to the news site.
“It gets to the heart of the problem, which is that the public health emergency allows for exemptions for a significant amount of the activities that have allowed us to be flexible throughout the pandemic,” Dillon said. “They are basically, many of them will just disappear completely from one day to the next. That part will be very difficult to deal with at the hospital level.”
One does not have to stay on the front lines or have a medical education to understand this: it is quite foolish to turn down any part of any effort to help combat the spread of a pandemic the moment it escalates to threatens to kill more people.
That is not a liberal point, nor are messages from the Democratic Party. It’s truly a matter of good old common sense, the very quality that Parson likes to be proud to possess in abundance as a homegrown guy from the country.
But the world has been turned upside down by wing nut irrationality. We are told that rejection of life-saving vaccinations in the midst of a deadly pandemic must be respected as a “personal health professional choice.”
You know, just as it should be fine if parents choose to send their children to school without vaccination for smallpox or polio, because they have chosen to take chances with their children’s health – and that of others – in the name of personal freedom.
Does that sound incredible? Not in a world where the governor can still get help from a spirit.
Ray Hartmann founded the Riverfront Times in 1977. Contact him at email@example.com or catch him on Donnybrook at 7pm on Thursdays on Nine Network and St. Louis I Know With Ray Hartmann from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday at KTRS (550 AM).