A CLOSER LOOK: unvaccinated people are at risk, warns CDC director

A Closer Look

"COVID-19 is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated," said Dr. Walensky.

DELTA – B.1.617.2 for the spreading coronavirus variant, on July 01, 2021 in Bonn, Germany. (Photo by Ulrich Baumgarten via Getty Images).

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — The Delta variant of COVID-19 is a serious public threat among young people in the South. This comes at a time when schools are expected to re-open in about a month.

CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL (CDC) RECENT COVID DATA

  • Nationally, the current hospitalization 7-day average (July 7-13) was 2,794, a 35.8% increase from the previous 7-day average (June 30-July 6) of 2,058.
  • New hospital admissions have consistently increased since June 25, 2021, according to the CDC.
  • Deaths increased per the 7-day moving average by 26.3% — it’s currently at 211 and last week it was 167.
  • Thursday, there were 33,000 new cases of COVID-19.
  • The seven-day average is about 26,300 cases per day, and this represents an increase of nearly 70 percent from the prior seven-day average.

The good news is that if you are fully vaccinated, you are protected against severe COVID, hospitalization, and death, and are even protected against the known variants — including the Delta variant — circulating in the country.

If you are not vaccinated, you remain at risk.  And our biggest concern is that we are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations, and, sadly, deaths among the unvaccinated.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky

On Friday, July 16, the CDC reported that Arkansas was one of five states with the highest case rates compared to the national average.

  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Louisiana
  • Missouri
  • Nevada

“Forty percent of all new cases in the last week were from four states, with one in five of all cases happening in Florida,” said White House  Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients.

In Missouri, 1,357 people are hospitalized, 425 are in the ICU, and 206 are on ventilators, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Most of the patients are unvaccinated, and hospital officials believe they have not seen the worst of the Delta variant, according to hospital personnel. Mercy Springfield Hospital opened a sixth COVID ward this week.

In Arkansas, hospitalization rates have increased in every age group. According to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), 15% of Arkansas’ active COVID-19 cases are children 18 and younger.

The CDC predicts the Delta variant (B1.617.2) will increase to 57.6% and will become the “predominant lineage in the United States.” However, there are three other variants of concern (VOC) but those are expected to decrease: Alpha (B.1.1.7), Gamma (P.1), and Beta (B.1.351).

CHICOT COUNTY, ARKANSAS, HAS THE LOWEST POSITIVITY RATE, 1.8%

Chicot (prono: Chico) County’s population is 11,800 as of the 2010 census. There are three cities, Dermott, Eudora, and Lake Village, where most people live — 8,056. There are two hospitals, Southeast Rehabilitation Hospital and Chicot Memorial Medical Center, and both are in Lake Village. The county currently has four active COVID-19 cases, according to ADH data. The Hospitalization Association Southeast Region, which includes Chicot County, reports 37 COVID-19 patients, 10 are in ICU and no one is on a ventilator. (Other counties in the Southeast region are Arkansas, Ashley, Bradley, Desha, Drew, and Jefferson).

“We’ve had opportunities to get vaccines and we wear masks,” said Chicot County Judge Mack Ball giving possible reasons for a low positivity rate. The judge realizes that people can refuse the vaccine, but the county tries to get the word out about the importance of getting vaccinated. “We have vaccine drives, we utilize the fire department, and the local health department to get the word out,” he said. “Masks are required to be worn in government buildings, the courthouse, hospitals, city offices, and we’re following guidelines issued by the CDC to a T.”

Judge Ball is aware of the recent increase of variant cases and said the county may reinstate a mask mandate because, “right now, we’re going in the wrong direction.”

“We’re serious about wearing a mask, and a mask will be mandatory for school students this fall,” said Judge Ball.

COVID MISINFORMATION

On Thursday, July 15, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy spoke about misinformation as being “an urgent health crisis.” He said the good news is that 160 million people are fully vaccinated and each day more people are getting the shot. The downside is that there is an increase in infections from people who are “unvaccinated.”

Health misinformation is false, inaccurate, or misleading information about health, according to the best evidence at the time. And while it often appears innocuous on social media apps and retail sites or search engines, the truth is that misinformation takes away our freedom to make informed decisions about our health and the health of our loved ones.

Health misinformation didn’t start with COVID-19. What’s different now though is the speed and scale at which health misinformation is spreading. Modern technology companies have enabled misinformation to poison our information environment with little accountability to their users. They’ve allowed people who intentionally spread misinformation — what we call “disinformation” — to have extraordinary reach.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy

 “Simply put, health [mis]information has cost us lives,” said Murthy.

Murthy said, “an all-of-society approach [is needed] to fight misinformation.” He gave six recommendations — all involve the use of technology and communication.

  • Include recommendations for individuals and families. We ask people to raise the bar for sharing health information by checking sources before they share, to ensure that information is backed by credible, scientific sources. As we say in the advisory, “If you’re not sure, don’t share.”
  • We’re asking health organizations to proactively address misinformation with their patients. The American Academy of Pediatrics is announcing an educational campaign to help parents navigate online health information. 
  • We’re asking educational institutions to help improve health information literacy. We’re asking researchers and foundations as well to help us learn more about how health [mis]information spreads and how to stop it.
  • We expect more from our technology companies. We’re asking them to operate with greater transparency and accountability. We’re asking them to monitor misinformation more closely. We’re asking them to consistently take action against misinformation super-spreaders on their platforms.
  • We’re also asking news organizations to proactively address the public’s questions without inadvertently giving a platform to health misinformation that can harm their audiences.
  • Government can play an important role too by investing in research, by bringing individuals and organizations together to address misinformation, and by supporting groups that are working on this issue.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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