Saturday, July 3, 2021

Missouri: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 8888: False Hopes Unmasked



Harriet, ER nurse during COVID. Artist: Tom Croft.

Early July 2021.

I left Birmingham on Wednesday, June 30, bound for central Missouri for the start of my annual interregnum between tourist residencies.

I felt such promise for the coming summer and fall, for the resumption of a more normal life. Dancing again! Listening to get-down blues in small, crowded bars! Flying to New York with one of my descendants! Places to go where I can wear pretty clothes. Wearing earrings again!

But then I entered Missouri. 

Butler County. A convenience store. No one wore a mask. No one, except me. Having just left Birmingham, where indoor masks were still de rigeur, I was astonished. I returned to my car. Looked up the fully-vaccinated rates for Butler County. Only 20% of the population in Butler County were fully vaccinated as of the day before. 

Reynolds County. A convenience store. No one wore a mask. No one, except me. Rate of fully-vaccinated people in Reynolds County as of the day before: Only 15%. FIFTEEN percent. 

Phelps County. A convenience store. Only two people (me included) wore a mask. One employee did have a mask that hung from his two ears, protecting his upper neck. Rate of fully-vaccinated people in Phelps County as of the day before (and this is the home of the University of Missouri-Rolla, where presumably, thousands of students will descend in only weeks for the fall 2021 semester): 30% fully-vaccinated as of the day before. 

This defies logic.

As of this writing, on July 3, 2021, Missouri is a hotspot in the United States for COVID upsurges and for the Delta variant, in particular.

The state forced workers to return to work at the Truman Building in Jefferson City - masks not required. No one is asked if they've been vaccinated. Cole County - home of the state government! - has a 37% rate of fully-vaxxed, but with many Truman Building employees commuting from the rural adjacent counties, the rate of vaccinated state workers in the Truman Building is surely much lower.

Sure enough, this past week, 15 Truman Building employees in one area of the building tested positive for COVID. More than 100 employees were sent home. One of my friends works in the Truman Building. He was so angry. The state had tried to keep the information about the building's outbreak from the workers there.

Barely anyone is wearing a mask inside stores in Jefferson City. The Republican governor has asked the White House for help with dealing with COVID in Missouri.

That spark of good cheer I had when I left Birmingham?



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