Editorial Roundup: Missouri

Kansas City Star. June 29, 2021.

Editorial: With delta variant spiking in Missouri, those who got J&J vaccine may need a booster

Infectious disease experts say those who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine may need a booster shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, particularly to fight off the more contagious delta variant that’s raging here in Missouri.

Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is not yet recommending such boosters, some doctors who specialize in infectious disease and got the J & J vaccine are already getting them. Stanford professor Dr. Michael Lin is among those arguing that getting one not only makes sense but is a “no-brainer.”

“The 40% expected breakthrough in J&J recipients exposed to delta is a big contrast to the 12%” expected for those who got the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, he tweeted. “Why not bump the protection against illness from (and transmission of) delta from 60% for J&J recipients to (tilde)90% like the RNA recipients have? This can be easily accomplished with a RNA booster for existing J&J recipients.”

Not surprisingly, COVID-19 infections are rising where the vaccination rate is low — that’s us — and falling where more people have been vaccinated. Right now, we’re leading the country in both COVID-19 infections and in the delta variant.

“There’s really no excuse anymore for not getting vaccinated,” says Dr. Rex Archer, director of health for Kansas City. “The problem is, when people don’t, then the virus has a chance to continue to mutate. And we will see something much worse than this delta variant if we don’t get this virus under control.”

The delta variant is likely to become the dominant strain here, Archer says, and one-shot vaccinations won’t be enough to ward it off or keep it from spreading. It won’t stay in rural areas, either, so urban areas will be paying a price for the lack of vaccinations and precautions in rural Missouri.

Archer says it’s absolutely essential for those who’ve only had one Pfizer or Moderna shot to get their second. He said he’s awaiting word from the feds on whether they recommend that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine be boosted by a Pfizer or Moderna shot. But in the meantime, he recommends extreme caution for those folks, who he says should really be wearing masks in most indoor situations.

An Associated Press analysis of data from last month shows that nearly all deaths from COVID-19 — over 99% of them — are now in unvaccinated patients. Fully vaccinated patients account for only 0.1% of hospitalizations.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly continues to encourage Kansans to do the right thing for themselves and their communities: “The delta variant is rapidly spreading in neighboring states, and the best way to protect yourself, your community, and get our state back to normal is by getting vaccinated,” Kelly said in a statement Monday. “Kansas is moving in the right direction, but we can’t let our guard down now.” She urged people to go to www.kansasvaccine.gov to find a vaccination site.

Unfortunately, in keeping with his “do whatcha wanna do” response to the whole pandemic, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is doing just the opposite, pronouncing himself “comfortable” with where the state is in fighting COVID-19.

“The one thing we’re very comfortable with is, one, we continue to do the testing every day in the state of Missouri,” Parson told KMIZ. “We know what our hospitalization rates are, we know that they’re not climbing at an extreme rate like they were before and we’re going to deal with that. We’re going to deal with COVID-19 for a while, we just got to make sure we’re testing and we got the vaccine available.” If it’s available but not getting into the arms of Missourians, what good is that?

This leisurely approach, summed up perfectly by the governor’s “If you want to wear a dang mask, wear a mask” comment, is exactly the attitude that got us here.

The delta variant, first seen in India, is more contagious and is leading to spikes in hospitalizations across Missouri — where fewer than 40% have been fully vaccinated.

The CDC said that in a recent sampling of 309 Missouri specimens, 29% were the delta variant. But many places both here and in Kansas aren’t even testing for the delta variant, so its incidence can only be guessed at.

And it’s best not to guess when it comes to life and death. Choose to be safe rather than proud. Continue to take precautions such as wearing a mask, washing hands and social distancing to the extent possible.

Above all, get vaccinated. This scourge isn’t over. If you want to change that, you’re going to have to do your part.

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch. June 26, 2021.

Editorial: In special session, state lawmakers seek to pile cruelty upon cruelty

The Missouri Legislature is back for a special session at Gov. Mike Parson’s behest with a mandate to renew a tax on medical providers that provides crucial funding for Medicaid. The Republican governor’s insistence that the tax be renewed — or he would slash $722 million from the state budget to provide the funding — appears to have pushed obstinate lawmakers to reach an agreement ahead of time so the session wouldn’t wind up being a complete waste of time. Yet the squabbling continued through Friday.

That’s because Parson is allowing debate to proceed on anti-abortion and birth control measures embedded in the funding legislation. We had hoped that Parson would take a stronger stand against the attempt to hold Medicaid-related funds hostage to lawmakers’ personal religious and moral beliefs about restricting women’s control over their own bodies. But the prevailing GOP leadership philosophy these days appears to be: Why opt for a moderate middle ground when there’s so much right-wing extremism to exploit?

The legislative extremists, led by Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake Saint Louis, are doing their best not just to restrict women’s right to contraception or abortion but also to defund Planned Parenthood. The idea, apparently, is to force as many women as possible into unwanted pregnancies at the same time the state steadily chips away at funding for the support services that help low-income families cover the expenses of raising a child.

The Legislature already refused to honor a majority vote in a statewide referendum mandating an expansion of Medicaid to cover an additional 275,000 low-income Missourians. That legislative decision quickly went to court, and on Wednesday, a Cole County judge struck down the referendum result, saying the measure lacked a proper funding provision and therefore violated the state constitution.

What’s at sake here goes far beyond the hot-button issues that typically drive the abortion debate. One of the very drugs being targeted by lawmakers like Onder is mifepristone, also known as RU-486. Yes, it can induce abortion, but not all uses of RU-486 are equal. As Amanda Allen and Cari Sietstra argued in Wednesday’s New York Times, the drug also helps women like them whose fetus has died in the womb. Without access to RU-486 or other constitutionally protected methods, a woman whose fetus has died would be required to carry her dead baby in her womb. Allen and Sietstra write that 26% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.

The effort by Onder and company seeks to pile cruelty upon cruelty, denying women the ability to prevent contraception so they can plan for their future family at their own speed, while forcing women already suffering from the heartbreak of a lost baby-to-be to carry the dead fetus until it self-aborts via miscarriage — all to satisfy mainly male lawmakers and their skewed sense of morality.

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Jefferson City News Tribune. June 25, 2021.

Editorial: Think you had it rough during the height of the pandemic?

If you think you had it rough for the past year, consider local nursing home residents.

“It’s a lot better.”

As COVID-19 wanes, that’s how Dolores Knernschield, 92, described life in StoneBridge at Oak Tree Senior Living in Jefferson City.

If you think you had it rough for the past year, consider local nursing home residents.

Not only did they have little to no access to their loved ones at times, but Knernschield and many other residents of nursing homes were sometimes confined to their rooms.

As we reported in a June 19 story, Knernschield said emotions ranged from the fear of the unknown to frustration at being confined and having limited connection to family members outside facilities and elation as pandemic-caused restrictions eased.

Mary Gant, 85, who resides in the independent living portion of Primrose Retirement Community of Jefferson City, said there was confusion at times. She said residents had to be creative in coming up with things to do in their rooms.

Gant and others who lived to tell their stories are the fortunate ones — not everyone survived. Of the 270 COVID-19 cases in the county’s long-term care facilities, 56 died. That’s a mortality rate far above the general population.

Harold Lepper, 86, came down with COVID-19 but survived. The Primrose resident said he’s lucky to have family in the area.

“I was in the hospital New Year’s. I had double pneumonia. I had food poisoning,” Lepper said in our story. “They thought I was going to die. The two nurses that saw me leave didn’t expect me to come back.”

Doctors told Lepper he may require six months to a year to fully recover. He still feels unsteady on his feet and walks with a walker.

Rose Marie Bogdan, an 84-year-old resident of Jefferson City Manor, a JMS Senior Living site, said residents felt they were cared for. Staff found creative ways to keep the residents active, she said.

“Being in here, I didn’t have to worry too much. (Jefferson City Manor Administrator Brandon McIntire) and everyone else in the staff was very much up on everything,” she said in our story.

The pandemic has been rough on nursing home residents, many presumably members of “The Greatest Generation.”

They’ve collectively seen a lot over the years and have overcome many tough situations while creating a better nation for the rest of them. We commend them for making the best of a tough situation once again.

We also commend the staff of the nursing homes. Like other front-line workers, they sacrificed their own health and safety and went above and beyond to protect their residents.

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