Mesa County’s pervasive right wing culture is damaging our public health and economy

No one wants to say it, but Mesa County’s far right wing culture is now hurting us all, physically and economically

Everybody is dancing around it, but no one wants to come right out and say it. It’s the single biggest threat to Mesa County’s population in the last hundred years, but everyone is scared to say it:

Mesa County’s dominant far right wing culture is now causing a resurgent spread of Covid-19, sending people to the hospital and endangering the children in our community who are too young to get vaccinated. Our area’s right wing culture, with its erroneous, misinformed beliefs, is causing the majority of Mesa County residents to refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19. At the same time our elected officials have abandoned all other means of controlling the pandemic, like masking and physical distancing requirements.

We’ve heard over and over again that the Covid vaccine is now our only way out of the pandemic, but because most people in Mesa County are refusing to get vaccinated, we may never escape the pandemic.

People who won’t get vaccinated are continuing to act as if everything was normal again, too. They are gathering, recreating, shopping and engaging in other activities without taking Covid precautions. Country Jam is right around the corner, frightening residents with its outsized potential to be a big Covid-spreading event.

Local hospitals have reported they are full and diverting patients. This is happening because of an excess of Covid-19 cases among unvaccinated people.

Contrary to popular belief, the pandemic is not over. It is still here and still spreading, and now with the more transmissible and virulent Delta variant. That, combined with the large number of unvaccinated people here is making our area’s hospitals  fill up with Covid patients along with all the other seasonal emergencies the hospitals usually get, like hiking and rafting accidents, for example — to the point where they have to occasionally refuse to take any more patients.

This means that if you or a member of your family unexpectedly require hospitalization, there may not be a bed here because the hospitals are clogged with Covid-19 patients, and you’ll have to drive somewhere else in the state to get them admitted to a hospital.

This is a distinct threat to all Mesa County residents, and it’s all attributable to the county’s widespread and grossly uninformed far right wing beliefs.

Those same beliefs are now dragging our economy, down, too.

In a June 13 Daily Sentinel article, Robin Brown, Executive Director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, said our area’s low vaccination rate is now hurting economic growth, too. Brown said businesses that were considering moving to or expanding to Mesa County are pulling out because of our low vaccination rate.  Mesa County Public Health Department Director Jeff Kuhr explained why:

A typical misinformed conversation on Facebook about the pandemic and the Covid-19 vaccine in Mesa County

Mesa County’s unvaccinated people form the majority of the pool of potential employees, and when unvaccinated people get exposed to Covid-19, they have to quarantine for 10 days. As employees, they’d be forced to miss work. Unvaccinated employees are at a far greater risk of getting Covid-19, too, particularly with the more transmissible Delta variant running amok in the community now. Infected employees have to take sick leave.

People who are vaccinated don’t have to quarantine after being exposed to the virus, so why would any business consider moving here when they can move to one of the other counties where over 70% of people are already vaccinated, and where the potential for this added expense and uncertainty is far less of a factor than it is here?

If people don’t get vaccinated, we’re out of tools to control the pandemic

Mesa County held its own in the pandemic throughout 2020, but the County Commissioners ended public health protections early this spring when they issued their “Free to Choose” resolution, which says (and I paraphrase): “Well, we did what we could to get the pandemic under control and now we’re done with that. The economy is more important than people’s health, so now people can go do whatever they want.”

The resolution eliminated mandatory masking and physical distancing, but because the County has now summarily ditched the only other tools we had to keep people from getting infected with Covid-19, and since most adults in Mesa County are unvaccinated, we are left with ZERO tools to further control the pandemic. This hands the virus a big pool of unvaccinated bodies it will continue to infect and through which it can continue to spread, and that is exactly what it is doing right now.

The virus will continue to flourish here and keep us in a perpetual state of pandemic for the foreseeable future because we have a large and deeply misinformed population that harbors outlandish, unsubstantiated and often conspiratorial far right wing beliefs about the virus and the vaccine that keeps them from getting it.

Headlines tell the story of what Mesa County is now facing:

One of County Commissioner Janet Rowland’s Fox News Facebook posts from her campaign, spreading misinformation about the Covid pandemic

One of the rationales the Commissioners gave to justify their “Free to Choose” initiative was that we had flattened the curve, and hospital bed use in Mesa County was down so hospital capacity was no longer an issue.

Well, not any more.

On May 24th, St. Mary’s and Community Hospital both announced they were full and turning away patients. Community Hospital confirmed that the increase in the number of Covid-19 patients was a factor.

The same far right wing beliefs are now especially endangering kids in our area, and in particular kids under 11, who can’t get the Covid vaccine yet.

Twelve counties in Colorado have succeeded in meeting President Biden’s goal of getting over 70% of their residents vaccinated, taking those areas a long way towards ending the pandemic and getting back to normal where they are.

But that’s not happening here.

On June 9, the Mesa County Public Health Department issued an alert warning of widespread transmission of the Delta variant of Covid-19. The alert pointed out the particular danger this is posing to kids:

“Mesa County’s COVID-19 case data over the most recent 14 day period shows the most infections in the 10-19 age group (138). Another 50 cases have been in individuals age 0-9 in the last two weeks.”

The Delta variant now proliferating in our midst is 50% more transmissible and kids under 12 in in our county are ineligible for the Covid-19 vaccine, making kids bear the brunt of the local right wing culture’s mistaken beliefs, and the County Commissioners’ bad decisions.

Mesa County’s Covid-19 vaccination rate lags far behind the rest of the state

Dr. Megan Stiner, a pediatrician with Primary Care Partners in G.J. said on KKCO 11 News this evening that their practice has been seen a very large uptick in the number of kids presenting with Covid-19 over the last month, far more than they have seen in the course of the entire pandemic so far.

This is not abstract. Kids in Mesa County are suffering badly as a result of the decisions the politically right wing adults in this county are making, and most particularly the County Commissioners, whose job is to protect them.

Are you part of the problem? Take this quiz and see:

So what are those far right wing beliefs that are making masses of Mesa County residents refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19?

Take this quiz and see:

  1. Do you think Donald Trump is going to ride a unicorn back into the White House this August?
  2. Do you think the health department is using Covid-19 vaccinations to inject microchips into people for Bill Gates, or to make people magnetic?
  3. Do you think the Covid-19 vaccines aren’t really vaccines because after you get vaccinated you still have to maintain physical distancing and wear a mask in some circumstances?
  4. Have you attended local presentations that featured speakers who have been formally charged with fraud and deception, charged with other crimes, or

    Another example of a typical misunderstanding among the local right wing populace of how vaccines work.

    gotten cease and desist orders from government agencies charged with protecting public health and safety?

  5. Have you read articles or watched videos that have been banned from public dissemination because they contain lies or try to extort money from low-information people by ginning up fear among them?
  6. Do you believe the virus was man-made, that the vaccination causes infertility or contains live virus, that masks don’t to work to help reduce transmission of it, that Covid-19 is no deadlier than the flu, that vitamins will cure Covid or that officials are exaggerating the death toll from the virus?
  7. Have you decided not to get the Covid-19 vaccination because, well, just you’re just going to show that goddamn government what’s what?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are part of the problem.

It used to be that Mesa County’s far right wing culture and track record of people in office who relied on misinformation and hoaxes was something we could laugh off and joke about, but not any more.

Now it’s a deadly serious matter.

Mesa County will not be a livable community again in the same way we knew it until around 75-80% of the population is fully vaccinated, and now we have to face the fact that that may never happen here.

We’ll never get there because misguided, erroneous, uninformed right wing beliefs are making us one of the lowest-vaccinated counties in the nation.

Unless things change, we’re likely to stay there, too, and it is posing a real danger to our county, kids and our struggling economy.

 

 

 

 

 

  25 comments for “Mesa County’s pervasive right wing culture is damaging our public health and economy

  1. Perhaps it’s time for the insurance companies to contribute to the effort, as well – raising healthcare premiums for those who refuse to get vaccinated, and voiding life insurance policies for the unvaxxed who perish from COVID causes.

    “You’re entitled to your mistaken opinion, but there’s no reason we have to pay for it.”

    • Blindness can only be cured by jesus, apparently. Their blockheadedness is loyalty to the savior. JFC.

  2. Biden will get it done.

    He with secretly put the vaccine inside the McDonalds sauce, and also bake it into the unleavened “body of christ” bread that the deplorables eat at church.

  3. Me: Are you getting the vaccine?
    Antivaxer: No way!
    Me: why not?
    A.V. Not researched, not safe, microchips etc.
    Me: Do you believe in God?
    A.V: Of course, and he will protect me.
    Me: Is it possible God sent you a vaccine so you won’t get sick and die?
    A.V.

  4. Bravo, Anne! I heard you on KVNF–Mountain Grown Radio–this morning and decided that your blog is a must-read. I’m now a subscriber and a patron.

    I live in Montrose County, where the vaccination rate is just below that of Mesa County. What people need to ask is: if all the nearby hospitals are maxed out with covid cases, where are you gonna take Grandma when she gets seriously ill?

    • Thank you so much, George. I really appreciate it! Costs of the blog have risen due to a rising number of viewers, and I don’t get any pay to do this, so thanks so much for the help.

  5. The fact is this:

    Nearly every single death from covid is preventable.

    There is, however, no cure for belligerence.

  6. What is so interesting is that the anti-mask and anti-vax group doesn’t even know the boundaries of the Constitution. The 10th amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” That grants the state and local governments the authority to oversee public health issues. In Jacobson vs Massachusetts, the US Supreme Court in Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905), the Supreme Court upheld a state’s mandatory compulsory smallpox vaccination law over the challenge of a pastor who alleged that it violated his religious liberty rights. The court concluded that requiring smallpox vaccine does not violate First Amendment. The court ruled that the state of Massachusetts acted constitutionally within its police powers to pass a law to protect the health and safety of the public. Another indication of how easy it is to influence a group with half truths and false information.

  7. The data doesn’t lie…… clearly the new delta variant (first seen in India) is most prevalent in Mesa county right now…. and it spreads more easily and results in more severe symptoms than previous variants…..

    Mesa county health data (go to Meas County Health Covid-19 dashboard)

    Summarized Johns Hopkins data is at 91-DIVOC and you can scroll down to display data for counties in which folks you love are in. Put in the counties of your choice….. Mesa County rates per 100,000 people exceeds Front Range counties still! And 12 deaths in the last 14 days….. 10 of those among partially vaccinated folks per the Mesa County Health data.

    Folks need to get on the bus…… but the Kool Aid has been consumed by too many in Mesa County

  8. So proud of you Anne. Started an Atheist group in 2006 or so, and still being an activist after all these years. Have not forgotten those early years

  9. What an excellent perspective and accurate assessment of the current Mesa County COVID situation and the impact on economic growth. I unofficially track COVID metrics for Delta County and the surrounding counties of Mesa, Montrose, Garfield, Gunnison, and Ouray counties. Mesa County is seeing a slight downturn in 14-day (46.2), 7-day (36.1), and 3-day (30.7) average daily case trends. Delta County is seeing an upward trend. Mesa, Delta and Montrose counties have similar political voting percentages (2020 election) and vaccination percentages (age 12+ to less than 65) and state rankings. Mesa: 62.3% for Trump, 31.5% full vaxed, ranked 40th lowest in state. Delta: 67.9% for Trump, 27.2% full vaxed, ranked 48th lowest in state. Data from the State’s spreadsheets at https://covid19.colorado.gov/data with ranking charts freely available upon request.

  10. Thank you, Anne.

    The community is bettered when individuals learn to help themselves in accordance with nature, rather than sit around in “cult mode”, waiting for a literal Jesus. Literalism is a trance, cult blindness. Banished from reality with the onset of a savior.

    At this point, people refusing vaccinations are basically terrorists.

    Now that the Supreme Court has upheld obamacare for likely the final time, let’s make OBAMACARE MANDATORY FOR EVERYONE ON U.S. SOIL!!!
    Can you imagine? Mandatory obamacare covid vaccinations for all!! Using needles with a picture of Barack on it. USA USA.

  11. Geez Ann,
    You’re sounding a bit totalitarian, what happened to the dogma “My Body My Choice”. It is not very liberal/progressive to look at any of what is said on either side of the isle without a bit of skepticism – being vaccinated should instill a sense of security that “one is protected” making a decision in their own best interest and that of their family and situation in life. It seems very naive for one to not question this enticement/advertising campaign by the government, even to the point of financial lottery to get vaccinated. Just reviewing CDC website, and VAERS sites there is reasonable information to have prudence – The recent revelation of cardiac myocarditis in young people post vaccination may also be something that warrants caution for younger people considering vaccination.

    I’m old enough to remember the surgence of the swine flu- it also had a vaccine but if you research it ( also a corona virus-similar Sars version) the vaccine was pulled after less than 30 deaths associated with the vaccine. This is in stark contrast to the number of deaths and reported serious side effects with the CV-19 vaccine. The numbers are small in percentage, unless you happen to be in the percentage- wouldn’t you agree? https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/safety-of-vaccines.html

    In reference to the story regarding unvaccinated numbers hindering businesses moving to Mesa county- it was pretty one sided and didn’t offer company names or actual individuals that made these assertions-therefore its opinion of the author. I think encouraging a public forum with these said companies would bring real clarity the truthfulness. I am sure the city council would love to hear their thoughts or the chamber of commerce. Infrastructure, the lack of current affordable housing and supply chain deficiencies are likely more of an issue for businesses not coming to the county than the number of unvaccinated. Also until the extra money being paid to many workers on UI is done away with- what motivation is there to work when you can get paid more to stay home. Human nature is to take the path of least resistance-why work and get paid ie 600 a week when you can get 900/week to stay home- that is a no brainer especially for hourly workers. Free money is free money regardless of where it is coming from!

    Bottomline we each are responsible for our own choices- kudos to those vaccinated but it is unlikely that those unvaccinated are nearly as dangerous or deleterious to the county as you seem to be worried about. Information is key and relying only on sources of information that jives with personal beliefs leaves one woefully uninformed. As the well known mantra goes “There’s always two sides to the story”

    • Karen, this is not a suggestion that people undergo surgery, get sterilized, get a forced abortion or take up arms and go to war. For heaven’s sake, this is just a vaccine. The larger consideration is public health — the safety of children, neighbors, families and people you pass in the store. Vaccine deniers have all likely benefitted already from vaccines against polio, tetanus, diptheria, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, and more. Now it’s time to get one more shot, if not for one’s own personal sake, then for the sake of mankind. Also, we know how to do vaccines. Vaccines have been around for a couple of hundred years. We should consider ourselves VERY lucky we were able to get a vaccine for Covid, and quickly. There are lots of diseases for which they’ve been unable to develop vaccines so far.

  12. Thank you for saying out loud what many of us are thinking. Before I moved here 10 years ago, I was warned that this was a conservative area. When people of darker color skin pointed out the way they were treated here, I joined Black Lives Matter and found people who value every human being. When the Great Fraud was elected, I went to the Unitarian Congregation and found people who value kindness and feel that every human deserves to be treated with respect. These measures helped me feel safe here, although I’m pretty safe anyway, being an elderly white woman. This refusal to get vaccinated by the ignorant Trump junkies has me completely flummoxed. I’m old enough to have grown up with polio survivors who had long term health problems from it. We don’t even know yet what the long term health problems of COVID 19 will be. People refusing to get vaccinated are endangering themselves, their families and the community. I’m perplexed by the inconsideration and ignorance this displays.

  13. Great words here, Anne. The biggest problem with what you have said is that the people who you discuss, who most need to hear these facts and forecasts, are the ones least likely to pay attention, or even to hear this expressed. How do we get them to truly understand that this is PUBLIC HEALTH, far above and beyond politics?

  14. UN-Vaccinated people should have to sign a waiver that they will not present to a health care facility should they get seriously ill with COVID. Health care workers are sick and tired of the parade of Fox News watchers showing up all surprised that they came down with the illness. If I had a young child (unable to get the vaccine) I would be so angry that my child would be at risk due to this brainless bunch. Someone needs to sue Fox News and the Trumpsters for putting others health at risk with these crazy lies.

    • As the parent of a 6 month old, I’m terrified. I only leave the house for medical appointments or an emergency grocery run early in the morning and avoid taking my child out in public. I want them to be social, but their health is more important.

  15. Well said….. and unfortunately right on target. The state county-by-county infection numbers show the trend over the last 4-6 weeks: Mesa County has been at a 4 times greater new case rate than much more population dense front range counties of Denver, Jefferson, Adams, and Arapahoe for 4 weeks or more. ‘guess we got to prove that we can beat them at something, right?

    Silly and downright shameful. Go Mesa County……..

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