As Missouri experiences a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, state officials have requested aid from newly-formed federal “surge response teams” to assist communities struggling with low vaccination rates as the virulent Delta variant spreads.
Missouri last week had the highest rate of Delta variant cases in the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated. It remains in the bottom half of states in vaccinating residents and many counties have fully vaccinated less than 25% of residents, according to data compiled by The New York Times.
The state is again reporting more than 1,000 cases a day for the first time since February and virus-related hospitalizations have risen by more than 300 since late May to more than 900 currently.
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services spokeswoman Lisa Cox confirmed Thursday the state has requested the new federal help. Cox didn’t immediately provide additional details, but the request shows the Parson administration is moving to bolster the state’s pandemic response.
The White House, which unveiled the teams on Thursday, didn’t publicly identify specific states where it plans to offer assistance but said Delta factored into its decision to ramp up its response.
A White House official confirmed to McClatchy that the administration is working with Missouri since it requested federal aid. The CDC is working “closely” with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to identify their specific needs, the official said, preparing to mobilize a team to the state that will focus on vaccine confidence efforts, epidemiology, surveillance and sequencing support related to the Delta variant.
“These are dedicated teams working with communities at higher risk for, or are already experiencing outbreaks due to the spread of the Delta variant and their low vaccination rate,” White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said at a briefing.
Zients said the teams would help boost testing in communities to allow for contact tracing, provide treatments for those infected and, where needed and requested, send personnel to “address gaps and augment” local staff.