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Vaccine Skeptic Missourian Dies of COVID-19

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A Missouri man died shortly after contracting COVID-19; he was in his 40s. One of his nurses recalls that he tearfully said he was sorry for not getting vaccinated before he passed away, according to The Kansas City Star on July 2, 2021.

Information about his death was posted on CoxHealth’s Facebook page on Wednesday, June 30. Kaitlyn McConnell wrote about an email she had received from a nursing manager. She said, “It grabbed me.”

The email offered its reader a clear story of what health care workers are dealing with in the Ozarks. Hospital beds are filling up — again. But this time, the cases are from the COVID-19 variant Delta. The numbers are rapidly increasing in Taney County — home of Branson — where only 25 percent of people over 12 are fully vaccinated.

McConnell’s post started with, “A patient we had yesterday is tragically not with us today.” Then, she wrote about the heartbreaking story a nursing manager shared with her about a man in his 40s who died of COVID-19. He was only in the unit for a week — his health deteriorated quickly.

Unfortunately, he was one of the millions of COVID-19 patients who required being on a ventilator. Before they inserted the breathing tube, he tearfully told the nurses he did not think he needed to be vaccinated. He said he wished he had — and said he was sorry.

CoxHealth, which operates six hospitals in the Ozarks, has focused on transparency since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. They have kept the public informed about what staff members see with the virus.

McConnell told Laura Bauer on Friday morning:

This is one person, but it is an example of the worst-case scenario of this pandemic. Hearing about this very real person really resonated with me. The sentiment was he wished he had made a different choice.

She added that sometimes open communication from medical and hospital officials often includes blunt talk aimed at clearing up misinformation out there that has kept so many people from getting a COVID-19 vaccination. They do this because, as McConnell explained: “We’re seeing people dying.”

Hours after she posted about the man dying from COVID-19, CoxHealth CEO Steve Edwards tweeted that the recent rate of symptomatic tests — 32 percent — was alarming. That is double the rate during the last week of May.

Edwards added that four children had been hospitalized for COVID-19. One of them was only a few weeks old. Attempting to silence nay-sayers, he tweeted:

If you are making wildly disparaging comments about the vaccine, and have no public health expertise, you may be responsible for someone’s death. Shut up.

Missouri had the highest rate of the extremely contagious COVID-19 Delta variant in the country last week, according to CDC estimates. While about a quarter of all new cases in the United States are the Delta variant, CoxHealth recently had 50 of 56 tests come back positive for the highly contagious variant.

No county in southwest Missouri has more than 35 percent of its residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In the three counties served by CoxHealth, the average is 30 percent.

COVIDAshley Kimberling Casad, CoxHealth’s VP of clinical services and assistant incident commander for COVID-19 response, stated the low number of vaccinations and the high number of hospitalizations are directly related. The majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations have not been vaccinated.

By Friday morning, McConnell’s Facebook post about the recent death had been shared over 1,500 times with more than 130 comments. A few people pushed back against the idea of vaccinations. One woman accused McConnell of using the post to scare people into “getting this poison.” She said it is wrong to scare people into making a medical decision.

However, most commenters thanked CoxHealth for sharing. One person wrote about feeling sorry for the dead man’s family. Then, they begged everyone reading the post to be vaccinated because “we shouldn’t be losing so many loved ones.”

McConnell told Bauer that negative comments would not stop medical and hospital professionals from sharing facts. Although, she did mention feeling frustrated since they share the information because they want people to be safe, and understand the seriousness of the COVID-19 virus and its variant, Delta. Hopefully, regularly repeating the information will help at least one person see the truth, she added.

Her post ended with an explanation about why she chose to share the post about the death of the man who spoke of his regret over not being vaccinated against COVID-19 shortly before he died:

We share his story not to scare but to inform. Please learn from what others wish they could tell you. Please vaccinate.

Written by Cathy Milne-Ware

Sources:

The Kansas City Star: Missouri patient in his 40s ‘so sorry’ he didn’t get the COVID vaccine. Then he died, by Laura Bauer
The New York Times: Frontline Health Care Workers Aren’t Feeling the ‘Summer of Joy;’ by Andrew Jacobs
COVID Act Now: Taney County Missouri (MO) COVID-19 Vaccine & Risk Tracker

Featured and Top Image by Cpl. Daniel R. Betancourt Jr Courtesy of The Official Navy Page’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Province of British Columbia’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

Cathy Milne-Ware is the Editor-in-Chief for Frackle Media and lead instructor for St. Agatha's News School. She enjoys helping youth discover their unlocked potential and helping them find their voice. As an instructor, her goal is to teach them the power of words and develop strategies that will serve them in the future by teaching effective communication skills including critical thinking and a sense of belonging. Cathy strives to be an advocate and mentor for each intern.

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