Thursday, September 16, 2021

Pandemic roundup: Studies suggest how to hire more rural nurses; how to persuade the unvaccinated; issue is divisive

New York Times map; click the image to enlarge it.

Here's a roundup of recent news about the pandemic and immunization efforts:

Covid-19 hospitalizations are hitting crisis levels in the South, making it more difficult to maintain care or even find beds for the sickest patients. One in four hospitals now has more than 95% of its intensive-care beds occupied, up from one in five last month. In June, when cases were at their lowest level, fewer than one in 10 hospitals had dangerously high occupancy rates. Read more here.

One in 500 Americans have died from Covid-19. See how different states, ages, and ethnicities compare. Read more here.

A truck driver from rural Tennessee, now on last-resort life-support for Covid-19, urges others who are hesitant about getting vaccinated: "Before you say no, seek a second opinion." He says a daily diet of conservative talk radio that downplayed the pandemic and emphasized personal freedom helped convince him not to get vaccinated. But, he says, people should also consider personal responsibility, and how they don't want to infect loved ones. Read more here.

Bob Enyart, a conservative radio host who bashed the coronavirus vaccine, has died from Covid-19. He also had successfully sued the state of Colorado over mask mandates and capacity limits in churches last year. "Enyart is at least the fifth conservative radio talk-show host to have died of Covid-19 in the last six weeks after speaking out against vaccinations and masking," Timothy Bella reports for The Washington Post. "The Denver host’s comments are another example of talk radio being an often overlooked space for coronavirus misinformation. In the weeks and months leading up to their deaths, all five men had publicly shared their opposition to science-based health efforts when coronavirus infections were spiking." Read more here.

Related: "Politically motivated denial of Covid-19 vaccine effectiveness tracks with a dramatic politicization of trust in science itself," Wake Forest University philosophy professor Adrian Bardon writes for The Conversation. "In a survey conducted in June and July, Gallup found that the percentage of Republicans expressing a 'great deal' or 'quite a lot of' trust in science is down, shockingly, from 72% in 1975 to only 45% today. Over the same period, confidence in science among Democrats is up from 67% to 79%." Read more here.

A recent Harris poll found that one-third of vaccinated Americans surveyed reported cutting ties in some way with friends or family who remain unvaccinated. Only 12% of Republican respondents said they had done so, compared to 28% of Democrats. And 59% of Republican respondents said they had not done so because vaccination is a personal choice, compared with 25% of Democrats. A communications scientist who studies the effects of media and health campaigns suggests more effective ways to persuade the unvaccinated.

A Tulsa pastor is offering to write religious exemptions for cash. In just two days, more than 30,000 people have downloaded the form from his church's website. Meanwhile, an expert says religious exemptions for the coronavirus vaccine could be on shaky legal ground. Read more here and here.

Hospitals nationwide are struggling to hire more nurses, especially in rural areas. A study found that state laws mandating nurse-to-patient staffing ratios helps significantly, but two other popular approaches (mandating public reporting of nurse staffing levels and including frontline nurses on hospital staffing committees) have little or no impact on nurse staffing levels. Read more here.

Rural residents should get their flu shots to avoid stressing the local health-care infrastructure even more than it already is, writes Betsy Huber, president of the National Grange, the nation's oldest agricultural and rural advocacy organization. Read more here.

The coronavirus vaccines have been linked to myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. But, a cardiovascular specialist says it's an extremely rare and often mild side effect associated with pretty much all vaccines, and that it's far more likely to happen when someone is infected with a virus of any kind (like influenza). Bottom line: unvaccinated people face a higher risk of myocarditis, as well as getting seriously ill or dying from Covid-19. Read more here.

Some have complained that wearing face masks and other personal protective equipment causes people to breathe in too much carbon dioxide and not enough oxygen. A newly published study found that, while PPE usage does increase your carbon dioxide intake, it's still well under federal safety limits. Read more here.

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