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.
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:
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:
- “COVID-19 Cases Spike in Mesa County As Restrictions Lift But Vaccinations Lag Behind State,” Colorado Public Radio, May 18, 2021
- “Cases of Coronavirus variant from India nearly tripled in less than a week in Mesa County,” Associated Press, May 19, 2021
- “Child Dies of COVID in Mesa County, CO, Where Vaccination Rate Lags,” Colorado Times Recorder, May 27, 2021
- “Grand Junction hospitals reaching capacity limits,” KKCO-TV, June 8, 2021
- ‘We’re considering this an emergency’: COVID Delta Variant Continues To Rise In Mesa County,” Colorado Public Radio News, June 9, 2021
“Mesa County Is Just 40 Percent Vaccinated And Hospitalizations Are Increasing,” Colorado Public Radio News, June 16, 2021
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.
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:
- Do you think Donald Trump is going to ride a unicorn back into the White House this August?
- Do you think the health department is using Covid-19 vaccinations to inject microchips into people for Bill Gates, or to make people magnetic?
- 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?
- Have you attended local presentations that featured speakers who have been formally charged with fraud and deception, charged with other crimes, or
gotten cease and desist orders from government agencies charged with protecting public health and safety?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.