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Schmidt: Missouri is awash again in coronavirus cases. It's OK for the GOP to admit it.

Schmidt: Missouri is awash again in coronavirus cases. It's OK for the GOP to admit it.

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Virus outbreak again

Nathan Papes, The Springfield News-Leader via AP

Signs hang on a fence for Mother’s Brewing Co.’s vaccine clinic in partnership with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department and Jordan Valley Community Health Center on June 22. As the U.S. emerges from the previous coronavirus crisis, Missouri is becoming a cautionary tale for the rest of the country.

Some things should be nonpartisan and always kept above the political fray. Things like eating turkey and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, believing that puppies are cute, viewing the Grand Canyon and treasuring its natural beauty, and what the word “crisis” means.

On Thursday, Gov. Mike Parson told reporters, “We are all concerned about the spike in the delta virus, but trying to mislead people that we are in a crisis is totally misleading. We are not in a crisis mode.”

This statement was made after it was reported that a federal coronavirus response team had been dispatched to Springfield. It was also reported days earlier, hospitals in Springfield had put the call out for ventilators and that St. Louis area hospitals were responding.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary lists three definitions for the word crisis. The first one is “the turning point for better or worse in an acute disease or fever.” Data coming out of southwest Missouri makes it clear that what is happening there definitely meets the dictionary definition of a crisis. The fact that our governor refuses to recognize the preventable loss of lives of Missourians as a crisis disappoints and angers me but hardly surprises me.

I have skin in this game. My husband is a frontline health care hero, and I have a child who is immune compromised. My family spent an entire year in a state of near-constant worry over the dangers posed by this pandemic. Yet, it never stopped my husband from caring for anyone who walked through the emergency room doors. I personally did not take a deep breath until my entire family was fully vaccinated. My husband will tell you that Missouri hospitals consider what is happening with the delta variant to be a crisis.

The term crisis should not be partisan. Public health crises, such as a global pandemic, should have never been politicized nor should they be in the future. The politicization of the pandemic has cost people’s lives. To be fair, early on, the politicization came from both sides. Academic research has even been published on this topic.

But the politicization has been taken to new levels with the anti-vaccination campaign being pushed from the right. Admittedly, President Donald Trump never got the credit he deserved launching Operation Warp Speed, which accelerated the testing, supply, development and distribution of safe and effective vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics to counter the coronavirus. This point seems to have been forgotten by the right and the left.

Nearly every evening, Fox News hosts and other right-wing media outlets tell their viewers that vaccines are dangerous (they are not) and a threat to freedom (they are not). Or they assert that by getting vaccinated, people are supporting President Joe Biden’s agenda (an agenda that saves lives). Hosts and guests on right-wing media go so far as to compare receiving a vaccine to eugenics, forced sterilization and apartheid.

Fox Corp. Chief Executive Lachlan Murdoch has described the network as the “loyal opposition” to the Biden administration, which includes the fight to vaccinate the public against the pandemic. Polling data from FiveThirtyEight demonstrates the correlation between vaccine rates and the news sources that people frequent.

The entire anti-vax campaign is morally reprehensible. Those who sow doubt, discourage vaccination and spread deliberate misinformation are vile and, I am afraid, will never face any accountability. At a minimum, the right-wing media’s participation in this campaign is reckless, heartless and harmful. I'd be willing to bet that Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Lachlan Murdoch have all received a vaccine. How many people’s lives would be saved if they stopped with this grifter outrage media and thought about the common good?

Almost on cue, the right-wing outrage machine immediately went after Biden when he said, "We need to go to community-by-community, neighborhood-by-neighborhood and, often times, door-to-door, literally knocking on doors to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus.”

Biden’s coronavirus coordinator, Jeff Zients, followed up by saying "I would say, for those individuals, organizations that are feeding misinformation and trying to mischaracterize this type of 'trusted messenger' work, I believe you are doing a disservice to the country and to the doctors, the faith leaders, community leaders and others who are working to get people vaccinated, save lives, and help end this pandemic." Characterizing what the right-wing media is doing as a disservice seems particularly gracious considering that people's lives are at stake.

Even at the risk of repeating myself, it bears reiterating: Coronavirus deaths are now preventable, and 99% of people hospitalized with the virus are unvaccinated. Republicans, with a few exceptions, like Sen. Roy Blunt — along with their right-wing media flame-throwers — are morally bound to treat this surge of the delta variant as the crisis it is and stop pushing anti-vaccination propaganda.

Crises are not partisan. Neither are viruses. It’s about time we stopped treating them that way.

Lynn Schmidt is a columnist and member of the Post-Dispatch Editorial Board.

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