Missouri vaccine outreach aims to be non-confrontational

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) – With the delta variant causing a surge of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in southwestern Missouri, health officials have taken to going door-to-door in an effort to encourage vaccinations.

(Previous story: Missouri governor says door-to-door vaccine push would not be effective)

The Kansas City Star recently followed along as health officials knocked on doors in Springfield, handing out brochures. The newspaper reports that the effort was non-confrontational and the officials always took “no” for an answer, despite concerns raised by Gov. Mike Parson and other Republican leaders that the outreach would be heavy-handed.

Southwestern Missouri has seen an alarming rise in illnesses caused by COVID-19 in recent weeks.


Spike in cases prompts Freeman to reopen COVID Unit

JOPLIN, Mo. – Freeman Health System in Joplin announces it will reopen its medical COVID-19 unit due to a recent spike in cases.

The medical COVID unit was originally opened in July of 2020 and was closed in March of this year when cases had diminished in the area.

Physicians are also seeing more patients with gastrointestinal symptoms that include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The hospital will hold a press conference Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. to discuss increasing patient numbers, how patients are supported in fighting the virus and the changing demographics of those needing hospitalization.

Missouri has recently seen a surge in cases fueled by the Delta variant. One of the hotspots include the Ozarks. According to the Missouri Department of Health hospitalizations in Southwest Missouri rose 196% in the last month.

COVID hospitalizations are up in southwest Missouri and Freeman Hospital is re-opening it’s COVID unit after it closed back in March.

COVID cases continue to climb in the area with Missouri seeing a rapid rise in cases compared to other states. That also means, the number of COVID patients is increasing in the area leading to the reopening of recently closed COVID units at local hospitals, including Freeman. Freeman’s COVID Director, Dr. Rob McNab says there are some key reasons he thinks led to the state we’re in. “What we were doing kept it under control, not gone, not vanquished, but very under control, and when we removed all those safety protections, now we’re back up to 40 plus patients in-house, and we’re still not vaccinated enough to be able to take advantage of herd immunity.”

Dr. McNab says it’s still important to get vaccinated. “What we know right now about these new variants is that they’re still very susceptible to the vaccinations that we have, though it does look like you need to have both vaccines in that series completed to really get the benefit from it.”

Despite calls for people to get vaccinated, vaccination numbers are still low in the area, including Jasper County. Jasper County Health Department Administrator Tony Moehr says “Almost 35% have received one dose of vaccine, but it’s closer to 30% of the total eligible population that have been fully vaccinated so far.”

Moehr says the rise in cases locally is having an interesting side effect. “We have seen our numbers increase just over the past week or so as far as people that are requesting vaccine and so we’re hoping that some people that have kind of been on the fence or looking at this saying ‘wow, the cases are really starting to increase, maybe it’s time to start looking at getting this done’ and we hope more and more people will do that.”

Dr. McNab says he’s hopeful we can get through this climb in cases faster by getting more people vaccinated.