COVID Spike Forces Missouri Hospital to Borrow Ventilators Over Fourth of July Weekend

A spike in COVID-19 cases in Missouri largely attributed to the Delta variant and a low vaccination rate forced one hospital to borrow ventilators during the Fourth of July weekend and beg for help from respiratory therapists on social media, the Associated Press reported.

A newly formed federal "surge response team" began arriving to help suppress the outbreak in the Springfield area that has been hit hard.

Ashley Kimberling Casad, vice president of clinical services at Cox South, said she had been hopeful the number of cases would decrease, but nearly all of the virus samples the hospital has sent to be tested are the Delta variant.

Casad also said she believed it would be manageable as she prepared to come back from maternity leave as she looked at the case numbers from May.

"I really thought when I came back from maternity leave that, not that COVID would be gone, but that it would just be so manageable. Then all of a sudden it started spiking," she said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Missouri protests
Protesters hold signs encouraging people to demand that businesses be allowed to open up, and people be allowed to work at the Country Club Plaza on April 20, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. The state is facing a spike in COVID-19 cases as the Delta variant spreads and only 45 percent of Missouri's population is vaccinated. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

New York threw a ticker-tape parade Wednesday for the health care workers and others who helped the city get through the darkest days of COVID-19.

The split-screen images could be a glimpse of what public health experts say may lie ahead for the U.S. in the coming months: continued progress against the coronavirus overall, but with local outbreaks in corners of the country with low vaccination rates.

"We've got a lot to appreciate, because we're well underway in our recovery. We've got a lot to celebrate," declared New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who rode on a parade float with hospital employees along the Canyon of Heroes, the skyscraper-lined stretch of Broadway where astronauts, returning soldiers and championship sports teams are feted.

Northeastern states have seen cases, deaths and hospitalizations plummet to almost nothing amid widespread acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine. Vermont has gone 26 days with new case numbers in single digits. In Maryland, the governor's office said every death recorded in June was in an unvaccinated person. New York City regularly goes whole days with no deaths.

Missouri not only leads the nation in new cases relative to the population, it is also averaging 1,000 new cases per day—about the same number as the entire Northeast, including major population centers in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

California, with 40 million people, is posting only slightly higher case numbers than Missouri, which has a population of 6 million.

The problem, as health experts see it: Just 45 percent of Missouri's residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared with 55 percent of the U.S. population. Some rural counties near Springfield have vaccination rates in the teens and 20s.

At the same time, the Delta variant is fast becoming the predominant strain in the state. Testing of wastewater shows it is spreading from rural areas into more populated places.

Erik Frederick, chief administrative officer of Mercy Hospital Springfield, said staff members are frustrated that "this is preventable this time."

Missouri also never had a statewide mask mandate. The sentiment against government intervention is so strong that Brian Steele, mayor of the Springfield suburb of Nixa, is facing a recall vote after imposing a mask rule, even though it has long since expired.

The contrasting scenes in the U.S. came as the worldwide death toll from COVID-19 closed in on 4 million, by Johns Hopkins University's count.

COVID-19 deaths nationwide are down to around 200 per day from a peak of over 3,400 per day in January.

Meanwhile, 17 people died in the latest two-week reporting period in the county that surrounds Springfield, the most since January. None were vaccinated, officials said.

Back in New York, which was the lethal epicenter of the outbreak in the spring of 2002, the mood was far different Wednesday. Those honored at the parade included nurses and doctors, emergency crews, bus drivers and train operators, teachers and child care providers, and utility workers.

"What a difference a year makes," said parade grand marshal Sandra Lindsay, a nurse who was the first person in the country to get a COVID-19 vaccine shot.

"Fifteen months ago, we were in a much different place, but thanks to the heroic efforts of so many—health care workers, first responders, front-line workers, the people who fed us, the people who put their lives on the line, we can't thank them enough."

The mayor saluted them as "some of the folks who made history in New York City's toughest hours."

Justin Davis, a nurse who came from Pittsburgh to work at a New York City hospital during the height of the crisis last year, was excited to be riding in the parade on a float sponsored by the health care staffing company he works for.

"I think it's just going to be real cool," Davis said. "And hopefully it can just bring closure."

NYC Parade
Grand marshal Sandra Lindsay, a health care worker who was the first person in the country to get a COVID-19 vaccine, waves to spectators as she leads marchers through the Financial District as confetti falls during a parade honoring essential workers for their efforts in getting New York City through the COVID-19 pandemic on July 7, 2021, in New York. The parade kicked off at Battery Park and travel up Broadway in lower Manhattan, the iconic stretch known as the Canyon of Heroes, which has hosted parades honoring world leaders, celebrities and sports teams. John Minchillo/AP Photo