May 25, 2024

Truth needed to relieve stress on our hospitals

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BY REED ANFINSON

Co-Publisher,

Grant County Herald

Area hospitals, overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, are begging for our help. At the same time, some have to implement no-visitor policies due to the prevalence of the deadly disease in our counties, our relatively low vaccination rates, and our returning to crowded indoor spaces.

“Hospital beds at CentraCare and Carris Health, and across the state, are full,” Dr. Ken Holmen, CEO and president of CentraCare, said in a statement Friday.

“Daily, staff at CentraCare struggle to find beds for critically ill patients. The emergency room at CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital is packed with patients who need to wait hours for care they desperately need. 

“CentraCare clinical teams are exhausted. Staffing was a challenge before the pandemic, and now it’s much tougher. Sadly, people who love healthcare are even leaving the profession. This pandemic is not over and in many ways it is worse,” Holmen wrote.

The number of patients with COVID-19 has a ripple effect on the entire health care system. It means a person suffering a heart attack may find it difficult to get immediately into an ICU room.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), Stevens County has a COVID-19 testing positivity rate of 22.0 percent, the highest in west-central Minnesota. Grant County 14.4 percent.

The CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) say a positivity rate of 5 percent or less is needed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

  How we can help our local hospitals

Get vaccinated. If you have already been vaccinated and are eligible for a booster shot, get it. Getting vaccinated gives you good protection against getting COVID-19. If you still get it, the vaccine is highly effective in preventing hospitalization with severe symptoms. Nearly all of those hospitalized in critical condition, and dying from COVID-19, have not been vaccinated.

As of last Friday, 80 percent of Grant County residents 65 and older were vaccinated. That’s good. What is bad is that just 44 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 49 were vaccinated. This is the largest population group that MDH tracks for vaccinations.

If you aren’t vaccinated, wear a mask in crowded places, or avoid those crowded spaces.

Educate yourself, not with rumors and false information but with medical and scientific fact. Talk to your family physician or public health agency staff.

We know there are those, especially here in rural, conservative America, who refuse to get vaccinated. Their hard stand against vaccinations has its roots in the abundant false information about vaccine safety on the internet and conservative media.

  Vaccine hesitancy hurting our hospitals

Here are six false beliefs about the COVID-19 vaccine that those not getting vaccinated are likely to bring up. Remember, each of these claims is false:

* Deaths due to the COVID-19 vaccine are being intentionally hidden by the government. Kaiser found that 17 percent who have heard the rumor believe it to be true.

* The COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to cause infertility. Eighteen percent of those surveyed had heard the rumor and believed it to be true. 

* Eight percent who heard that Ivermectin was a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19.

* Fourteen percent believed you could get COVID-19 from the vaccine.

* Seven percent of Americans have heard the rumor that COVID-19 vaccines carry a microchip and believe it. Another 17 percent had heard the rumor and didn’t know if it was true or false.

* Eight percent of Americans have heard the false statement that COVID-19 vaccines can change your DNA and believed it.

Changing the minds of these misinformed Americans is an unending challenge for the medical community, particularly because their beliefs are so closely aligned with their political beliefs.

“Research has found that when psychologists confront political partisans with facts contradictory to their opinions, they become even more convinced of their existing beliefs,” Gregory Ferenstein, a fellow at the University of California Center for the Study of Democracy, writes. 

Making the challenge even more daunting is the intentional destruction of our faith in shared news sources. 

“An analysis of over 4.5 million social media posts found that false news stories were 70 percent more likely to be shared than true stories. This failure is causing significant harm and undermining our COVID-19 response and recovery efforts,” Estelle Willie, director of Health Policy and Communications at the Rockefeller Foundation, writes.

That is the challenge we face in getting the unvaccinated vaccinated and relieving the stress on our hospitals and their medical staff.

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