Missouri residents reportedly wear disguises and secretly receive COVID-19 vaccines for fear of backlash from members of their community.
dr. Priscilla Frase, who works at Ozarks Healthcare, a hospital in West Plains — 200 miles southwest of St. Louis — told ABC News that many patients don’t want their family and friends to know they got the injections.
The medical center now offers to give the vaccines in a private setting to patients who request it.
It comes as Missouri struggles to tackle the Indian ‘Delta’ variant, which is responsible for a recent surge.
Cases reported in The Show-Me State are up 77 percent in the past two weeks, from 1,371 average daily cases on July 12 to 2,427 on July 26.
dr. Priscilla Frase (pictured) told ABC some Missourians come in disguise or secretly to receive COVID-19 vaccines
Only 48 percent of residents have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine to date, health department data shows.
Frase, who works in the Ozarks Department of Internal Medicine, told ABC News that she has seen several people in disguise.
“Several people have come in to get vaccinated who have tried to disguise their appearance and even went so far as to say, ‘Please, please, please don’t let anyone know I got this vaccine. I don’t want my friends to do it. know,” she said.
In Howell County, where Ozarks is located, the COVID situation is worsening as vaccination rates remain low.
The number of cases in the province – with a population of about 40,000 – is up . grown 500 percent in the past month, from six a day on June 26 to 36 a day on July 26.
The number of cases in Howell, Missouri, where Ozarks is located, has increased by 500% in the past month
The province also set a new record on Monday, registering 78 new COVID cases, the most ever in a single day.
The province has also had problems giving its residents a shot, with only 10,000 residents — or 25 percent — who have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Howell is located in a region that was one of the first to see a large increase in cases due to the Delta variant – a highly contagious strain of the virus that originated in India.
Currently, an estimated 90 percent of active cases in Missouri are of the Delta variant.
Hospitals in southwest Missouri nearly filled up in early July, with some even struggling with ventilator shortages.
The federal government has deployed a special response team in the region to help local hospitals deal with the wave.
St. Louis, the second-largest city in the state, has even reinstated a mask mandate for all people — regardless of vaccination status — to prevent the virus from spreading.
Eric Schmitt, Missouri Attorney General, filed a lawsuit against St. Louis, hoping to revoke the mask mandate.
Schmitt, who is a US Senate candidate, has previously filed a botched lawsuit against the government of China over the pandemic.
“This continued oversight of government is unacceptable and unconstitutional, especially given a widely available vaccine,” he said in a press release.
Vaccine rollout in Missouri has slowed since its peak in April. It hit one of its lowest points earlier this month
However, getting the vaccine, which is widely available in Missouri, into the arms of residents has been a challenge.
In Missouri, only about 15,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines are distributed each day, a long way from early April, when 50,000 were used per day.
The state also hit a low in 2021 of just 7,500 vaccines distributed in the first week of the month, though the number has doubled since then.
The vaccine rollout in Missouri is following a nationwide trend.
After peaking in early April, vaccine demand in the United States began to decline.
With cases rising across the country, the average new daily cases are up 376 percent, from 11,887 on June 26 to 56,635 on July 26. Health officials are bringing back some COVID-19 mandates.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised their mask guidelines and now recommended that all people — regardless of vaccine status — wear a mask in indoor public areas in areas of “substantial or high transmission.”
All but one of Missouri’s counties are currently considered “substantial” or “high” transmission.
Nearly every county in Missouri is of “substantial” or “high”
However, CDC guidelines are not binding, meaning it is still up to county and state leaders to establish mask mandates.
With the Attorney General’s opposition to masking mandates, it is unlikely that one will be enacted at the state level.
Counties that choose to do so may also face resistance from the state government, such as St. Louis.
Children, students and staff across the state will also be recommended to wear masks when they return to personal learning this fall.