A Floyd County resident we’ve known for most of the 17 years since returning to the area approached a table where several of us were seated in the Blue Ridge Diner this week and asked:”Can I join you?”
“That depends,” one at our table said. “Have you had your COVID-19 shots?”
“F–k no,” he said loudly. “I’m not buying into that hoax.”
Another asked: “Then, where’s your mask?”
“I don’t need no g-ddamned masks,” he said, also loudly.
“Then you’re not joining us at this table,” I said. He muttered something else obscene and stomped off.
Infections of the virus increased that morning in the daily Virginia Department of Health report by more than 400 cases, part of a 70% increase of cases nationwide. Floyd County’s cases increase by three this past week, a massive jump in a rural county with few new cases in recent reports.
“There is a clear message that is coming through,” says Rochelle Walenksy, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “This is becoming a pandemic of the vaccinated We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk, and communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well.”
At a meeting of the county Board of Supervisors this past Tuesday, I saw two of the county’s more outspoken right-wing activists brag about not being vaccinated.
“I don’t even get flu shots,” one aid. “Their all a hoax.”
One of the four supervisors attending the board meeting that day wore a mask.
“I felt it was a necessary edge,” said Courthouse Supervisor Jerry Boothe, who is vaccinated but knew that some in the room that day were not.
While Virginia Health officials say those who are fully vaccinated can go out in public without a mask, it warns that being about others who have not gotten shorts should lead to symptoms of the virus,
In Virginia, the COVID-19 count was 684,499 cases on Friday and the death count, while down for previous highs, continues to climb. Two weeks ago, the daily number of new cases was under 100, On Friday, it was 445.
In Floyd County, the VDH report on vaccinations show that 48.2 percent are fully vaccinated — less than one half of the adult population. That means at least half of the people you don’t know at any given time may still be passing on the highly contagious variant of the virus.
America’s Surgeon General, Vivek H. Murthy, says widespread misinformation, much of it spread through social media, has hurt the nation’s efforts to increase the number of needed inoculations of the anti-virus vaccine.
“During this pandemic, health misinformation has led people to resist wearing masks and high-risk settings to turn down proven treatments, in some cases to turn to unproven treatments and to choose not to get vaccinated,” Murthy says in interviews. “All of this has led to avoidable illnesses and deaths. Simply put, health misinformation has cost us lives.”
Cindy Prius, an epidemiologist at the College of Public Health Professions at the University of Florida, says too many Americans feel risk the COVID-19 worries are over.
“There’s a feeling of being open,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be. If people would get vaccinated, we wouldn’t be seeing these increases in numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.”