COVID-19 hospitalizations in southwest Missouri surpass winter peak

(NEW YORK) — In a distressing turn, hospitalizations for COVID-19 in southwestern Missouri have surpassed their winter peak, according to the local health department.

On Monday, Greene County hospitals reported 251 patients who had been admitted for COVID, compared to a previous high of 237 COVID patients on Dec. 1, before vaccines were widely available.

Missouri currently has among the nation’s highest case rates, along with Arkansas, Florida and Louisiana, according to Department of Health and Human Services data.

The mayor of Springfield, Missouri, which is located in Greene County, pointed to misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the problem.

“I think we’re seeing a lot spread through social media, as people are talking about fears which they have, health-related fears, what it might do to them later on in their lives, what might be contained in the vaccinations, and that information is just incorrect,” Mayor Ken McClure said during an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

“I think we, as a society, and certainly in our community, are being hurt by it,” he added.

Missouri’s vaccination rate trails the national average. As of Monday, 47% of residents had received at least one dose and 40% were fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared with 56% of all Americans who’ve gotten at least one shot and 49% who are fully vaccinated.

In Greene County, vaccination rates are even lower than the statewide average. Just 41% of Greene County residents have received one dose of the vaccine, and only 35% are fully vaccinated, according to state health department data.

McClure broadcast a warning to mayors around the country to boost vaccination rates in their jurisdictions before the delta variant cases surge.

“Take advantage of this time to get your vaccination rates up as high as you can,” he said.

“Use your community collaboration, your trusted sources. Make sure that people have good information, solid information,” he said. “And use that time wisely, because it will be too late if you have not established those relationships by the time that it gets there.”

ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos contributed to this report.

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