Bracing for new wave of COVID-19 infections, area Labor, health officials urge everyone to get vaccinated

Managing Editor

LABORERS LOCAL 110 member Clint Boerckel (left) received a vaccine from Army National Guard Specialist Marcos Walden at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic held May 16 at Laborers Local 110 union hall in Sunset Hills. – Labor Tribune photo

St. Louis and the Metro-East are bracing for another wave of COVID-19 infections, fueled by the spread of the more contagious Delta variant, that health officials say could exceed the death and serious illnesses experienced last winter. Only this time, it’s preventable – by getting vaccinated.

The Labor Tribune asked state and area Labor leaders for their thoughts on vaccination and they overwhelmingly urged members to get vaccinated for themselves, their families and their union brothers and sisters. (See below.)

The vaccine has been proven safe, effective and the best line of defense against all variants of COVID-19, health officials say.

As Pat White, president of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council put it, “The science on this matter is crystal clear. The only way back to normalcy is through vaccinations. Please do your part and get vaccinated. You could be saving your union brother or sister’s life.”

The St. Louis Metropolitan Area Pandemic Task Force reported 398 COVID-19 patients in area hospitals on July 29, a 30 percent increase from the 300 reported eight days earlier and more than double the 188 reported on July 8. The task force said 92 percent of staffed hospital beds are filled, with the number of confirmed COVID-19 patients needing critical care in the ICU doubling in less than a month.

The state of Missouri currently has a 50 percent vaccination rate. In the City of St. Louis, the vaccination rate is 34.53 percent; in St. Louis County, the rate is 45.05 percent.

In the Metro-East, the vaccination rate in nearby St. Clair County is 41 percent. Madison County’s rate isn’t much better, at 43 percent.

Dr. Clay Dunagan, BJC HealthCare’s chief clinical officer and acting head of the Pandemic Task Force, says we have two weapons to fight the disease right now: vaccination and masking.

“I’m looking at these numbers with some alarm,” Dr. Dunagan said. “The path forward looks like it may equal or it could exceed what we experienced in the holidays unless we take some preventive action.

“This is about personal choice and we’re urging our community to choose to protect one another,” Dr. Dunagan said. “Maybe you won’t personally get sick, and maybe your children won’t either, but you can still transmit the disease to others and continue the spread.”

The vaccine is proven safe, effective and the best line of defense against all variants of COVID-19, he said.

By vaccinating and masking, you protect yourself, your family and our community, he said. “The safest thing for our community and the most effective way to get back on track is to wear masks – and get vaccinated!”

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