Missouri’s COVID-19 crisis is worsening. Which means we do have to go back to wearing masks in more situations.
We wish this weren’t the case. We wish Gov. Mike Parson and those around him would work harder to convince Missourians to get their shots.
Wednesday, Parson said the state might put up $5,000 or $10,000 as vaccine incentives, which shows you how unserious he is, and just how much he values human life.
He did sign a bill making it harder for Missourians to sue for COVID exposure. In Missouri, investments are better protected than investors, or anyone else for that matter.
But the threat of the new delta COVID variant, which is filling hospitals in southwest Missouri and moving this way, is too big to ignore. The threat is coming in the summer months, which makes it even worse: without proper steps now, the fall will be a disaster.
Those who have refused to get inoculated should always wear masks, and maintain social distancing in crowds. Even those who have gotten their shots, though, should now consider wearing a mask in public.
“In all public settings, (people) should be wearing a mask and maintaining social distance,” said Frank Thompson, deputy director of the Kansas City Health Department. “We’ve got enough virus circulating in this community that, even for those of us who are vaccinated, there’s still a slightly higher risk … of contracting this new delta variant.”
There is evidence that those who are fully vaccinated have some protection against the delta variant — they might still get sick, but the illness is milder and easier to treat. Thompson says the health department has documented 42 “breakthrough” cases of COVID-19 in vaccinated patients in Kansas City.
But infected people can still spread the coronavirus, making masks and distancing important for those who don’t have their shots. We still need to stop the spread.
Thompson wears a mask in most social settings. “We understand that there is a lot of COVID fatigue,” he said. “People are tired of wearing masks. But the reality is, we still have a ways to go in terms of beating this virus.”
The health department is talking with City Hall about additional mandates if the delta variant threat continues to grow. Everyone knows the resistance to mask requirements would be strong.
That means businesses, offices and schools will have to review their plans for protecting workers and customers in the weeks ahead. Some businesses will want to require masks, even for those with full vaccinations.
Anyone who decides to wear a mask should be able to do so without harassment or criticism from anyone.
Area schools will begin classes in about six weeks. While no one is suggesting a return to remote learning, masks and partitions must still be on the table.
“We are concerned,” Thompson said. “We would love to see the districts putting some incentives in place to encourage families to get (their) kids vaccinated.”
By early fall, children from ages 5 to 12 are likely to become eligible for inoculations.
Missourians have every right to be angry at this turn of events. Had state officials taken the virus more seriously from the beginning, a return to masks might have been avoided.
But Parson and his fellow travelers are now reaping what they have sown. Missouri’s full vaccination rate is under 40%, one of the worst rates in the nation and far below so-called herd immunity.
Now the feds are sending help to the state. One hospital in Springfield, Mo. said it ran out of ventilators for its sickest patients.
Wednesday, Parson said the state can provide needed ventilators, and any shortage is a “management problem.”
He misses the point, yet again. The need for extra ventilators represents a failure. Stopping the disease before it starts is always better. That means shots, masks, and acting as if COVID still presents a danger, because it does.
He’s also panicking about federal efforts, but any outreach to convince more people to get their shots is the best way to return to normal.
On Monday, while Parson is visiting the world’s largest goose, in Maxie, Mo, more people in our state will die of COVID needlessly.