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As patients stream into Mississippi hospitals one after another, doctors and nurses have become all too accustomed to the rampant denial and misinformation about COVID-19 in the least-vaccinated state in the U.S.
People in denial about the severity of their own illness or the virus itself, with visitors frequently trying to enter hospitals without masks. The painful look of recognition on patients’ faces when they realize they made a mistake not getting vaccinated. The constant misinformation about the coronavirus that they discuss with medical staff.
“There’s no point in being judgmental in that situation. There’s no point in telling them, ‘You should have gotten the vaccine or you wouldn’t be here,”‘ said Dr. Risa Moriarity, executive vice-chair of the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s (UMMC) emergency department. “We don’t do that. We try not to preach and lecture them. Some of them are so sick they can barely even speak to us.”
Mississippi’s low vaccination rate, with about 38 per cent of the state’s three million people fully inoculated against COVID-19, is driving a surge in cases and hospitalizations that is overwhelming medical workers. The workers are angry and exhausted over both the workload and refusal by residents to embrace the vaccine.
Physicians at UMMC, the only Level 1 trauma centre in all of Mississippi, are caring for the sickest patients in the state.
The emergency room and intensive care unit are beyond capacity, almost all with COVID-19 patients. Moriarity said it’s like a “logjam” with beds in hallways and patients being treated in triage rooms. Paramedics are delayed in responding to new calls because they have to wait with patients who need care.
Moriarity said it’s hard to put into words the fatigue she and her colleagues feel. Going into work each day has become taxing and heartbreaking, she said.
“Most of us still have enough emotional reserve to be compassionate, but you leave work at the end of the day just exhausted by the effort it takes to drum that compassion up for people who are not taking care of themselves and the people around them,” she said.
As the virus surges, hospital officials are begging residents to get vaccinated. UMMC announced in July that it will mandate its 10,000 employees and 3,000 students to be vaccinated or wear a N95 mask on campus. By the end of August, leaders revised that policy, and vaccination is the only option.
In the medical centre’s children’s hospital, emergency room nurse Anne Sinclair said she is tired of the constant misinformation she hears, namely that children can’t get very ill from COVID.
“I’ve seen children die in my unit of COVID, complications of COVID, and that’s just not something you can ever forget,” she said.
“It’s very sobering,” continued Sinclair, who is the parent of a two-year-old and a five-year-old and worries for their safety. “I just wish people could look past the politics and think about their families and their children.”
What’s happening across Canada
- Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation outbreak in N.B. rises to 4, chief says.
- Classrooms shut down after 2 Yellowknife elementary school students test positive.
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday, more than 220.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.5 million.
In the Americas, Argentina walked off the field Sunday after only seven minutes of its World Cup qualifier against host Brazil after health officials came onto the pitch following coronavirus concerns about three Argentina players. Antonio Barra Torres, president of Brazil’s health agency, said four Argentina players will be fined and deported for allegedly not following the country’s COVID-19 protocols.
In Africa, 42 of the continent’s 54 nations may not reach the World Health Organization’s (WHO) goal of countries vaccinating 10 per cent of their population by September due to “vaccine hoarding,” according to Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, regional director of WHO Africa Region. Moeti noted that “just two per cent of the over five billion doses given globally” have gone to Africa.
In Europe, Germany’s disease control agency says that more than four million people have contracted the coronavirus since the outbreak of the pandemic. Meanwhile, Russia says the country’s confirmed coronavirus cases tally has surpassed seven million.
In Asia-Pacific, Australia reported 1,684 new cases as authorities race ahead with vaccinations in a bid to end lockdowns on the populous southeast coast. More than 15 million people in Victoria state, neighbouring New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory have been under stay-at-home orders.