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The Delta Surge Weighs On Rural Communities

Provided By - Video Elephant on October 26, 2021
Living in the country can bring peace and tranquility, but theres also a hidden risk. The International Journal of Epidemiology recently reported that people living in rural communities have a shorter life expectancy non average. There are many reasons for the disparity. The rural-urban divide can be seen in COVID case and death rates in some areas.  Tucked away off a rural road in the Florida panhandle, the air is fresh, the atmosphere is quiet and the way of life is peaceful. Its far from cities with larger COVID-19 vaccination rates. In Calhoun County, population around 15,000, about 1 in 3 of the total population are fully vaccinated.  My family's been here about 70 years, said Pierre Wesselhoeft, the farm manager of Ocheesee Creamery, on the countys border.  The farm milks more than 100 dairy cows daily to produce fresh products like milk and ice cream.  We havent been vaccinated. I mean Ive worn a mask maybe one time the whole time. If they dont want me to go in the store, I don't. I go somewhere else. I mean its their store. For our farm it hasnt really made any difference at all, said Wesselhoeft.  Like many in the rural community, hes among those who have chosen not to get the vaccine.  Part of it has to do with the mistrust of where the information is coming from.  I mean they dont trust the government, CDC have been sort of flip flops so its hard to trust where the information is coming from, he said, adding its the case for him as well.  Behind his choice, he explains concerns over its effectiveness, ethics and ingredients.  Part of it is Im not sure whats all in the vaccine. I mean they dont hand out ingredients, you know what Im saying, he said.  Wesselhoeft believes the vaccine should be a personal decision.  For us I sort of judge it by the people around me and how they handled it. And for us it hasnt been that big of issue, he said.  Throughout the Delta surge, health officials pointed to higher case rates where there were lower vaccination rates.  Data on average shows higher COVID19 cases and death rates in rural areas, but lower vaccination rates.  There are pockets where there are uptake of vaccine but were not seeing much change in the administration of vaccines rural areas, said Brock Slabach, a senior vice president for member services at the National Rural Health Association.  The Delta surge stretched some rural hospitals where communities already faced healthcare challenges.  This latest surge had a huge impact on us in terms of just our hospital staff, community nursing homes, it really hit us hard in our community, said Warren Bailey, the director of pharmacy at Doctors Memorial Hospital in Bonifay.   The hospital is seated in Holmes County, which has one of the lower vaccination rates in the state. Just over 1 in 4 of the total population are fully vaccinated. Bailey grew up in the area and said he gets questions all the time. Bailey said theyve brought the vaccine to remote sites away from the hospital, like churches and community centers, where people may feel more comfortable. He said it was a challenge to get the message out.  Were a county of approximately 19,000 people. Bonifay is in the extreme southeast corner of this somewhat rectangular shaped county and all these people live 20, 30 miles from us. And so theyre a long way from healthcare. Some of them are just thinking well I live out here in the country Im gonna kind of stay away from people,' and maybe just kind of take their chance with it. Especially since the vaccine was new to them and felt like something that was quote unquote rushed to the market. So I think that led to a lot of people being fearful of it, Bailey said, also noting some residents traveled to Alabama for the vaccine.  But Rural America is not monolithic.  A Kaiser Family Foundation vaccine monitor report in September found of rural residents responding, about 1 in 5 said definitely not to the vaccine, nearly 1 in 10 would wait and see, but more than 60 percent already received at least one dose.  Seventy miles southeast of the farm, just south of the state capitol in Tallahassee, theres a tight knit fishing community.  Here livings are made off of oysters, relationships are built on the water, and on the boat of the Saucey Lady Oyster Company, the information catches differently. I trust it because I listen to the expert, Dr. Fauci, said staff member Mark Chadwell.  The staff signed up for the vaccine as soon as they could.  A lot of people were dying and I just didnt want to get on that list. I gotta little ways longer to live, said Kenny Reynolds.  Ive got about a month left before I can get my booster but Im looking forward to it, said Theresa Kunkel.  In

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