COVID-19 cases in US triple over 2 weeks amid misinformation

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In this Oct. 28, 2020, file photo, medical personnel don PPE while attending to a patient (not infected with COVID-19) at Bellevue Hospital in New York.

FILE – In this Oct. 28, 2020, file photo, medical personnel don PPE while attending to a patient (not infected with COVID-19) at Bellevue Hospital in New York. Workers in New York City-run hospitals and health clinics will have to get vaccinated or get tested weekly under a policy announced Wednesday, July 21, 2021, to battle a rise in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP/KFOR) — COVID-19 cases tripled in the U.S. over two weeks amid an onslaught of vaccine misinformation that is straining hospitals and exhausting doctors.

“Our staff, they are frustrated,” said Chad Neilsen, director of infection prevention at UF Health Jacksonville.

The Florida hospital is canceling elective surgeries and procedures after the number of mostly-unvaccinated COVID-19 inpatients at its two campuses jumped to 134, up from a low of 16 in mid-May.

“They are tired. They are thinking this is déjà vu all over again, and there is some anger because we know that this is a largely preventable situation, and people are not taking advantage of the vaccine,” continued Neilsen.

Across the U.S., the seven-day rolling average for daily new cases rose over the past two weeks to more than 37,000 on Tuesday, up from less than 13,700 on July 6, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Health officials blame the delta variant and slowing vaccination rates.

Just 56.2% of Americans have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health says only 46.3% of the eligible population in Oklahoma has received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Right now, Oklahoma is 9th in reported COVID-19 cases per 100,000 persons in the U.S.

“It is like seeing the car wreck before it happens,” said Dr. James Williams, a clinical associate professor of emergency medicine at Texas Tech, who has recently started treating more COVID-19 patients. “None of us want to go through this again.”

He said the patients are younger — many in their 20s, 30s and 40s — and overwhelmingly unvaccinated.

In New York City, caseloads have been rising for weeks, and health officials say the delta variant makes up about 7 in 10 cases they sequence.

Yesterday, Epidemiologist Aaron Wendelboe said doctors went as far as to say if Oklahoma continues on its current track, we could see peaks of COVID as bad as last October come this fall, which was months before the vaccine came out.

Wendelboe also discussed the issue of the pandemic becoming a political topic instead of a health problem.

Back in May, Governor Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 658preventing schools from mandating vaccines or masks for kids who haven’t had the shot.

Recently, a group of Republican House members sent a letter to Gov. Kevin Stitt requesting executive action to prohibit vaccine mandates for Oklahoma healthcare workers after Mercy and SSM Health announced their employees would be required to get vaccinated.

“Let the health professionals deal with the pandemic,” Wendelboe said. “When policy makers make laws that restrict our ability to respond to a pandemic then that makes it very difficult.”

“We are not in a sprint,” Mary Clarke, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said. “We are in a marathon.”

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