Coronavirus latest: CDC says reopening US schools a ‘priority’

Missouri officials do not not want federal employees to “parachute” in to push vaccination among residents, even though the state has become one of the hot spots for the Delta variant of Covid-19 in the US.

The state instead wants to rely on local “trusted messengers” within communities and its ongoing $5m public service campaign to encourage more people to be vaccinated against Covid-19, Robert Knodell, acting director of the state health department, said at a Friday press conference.

“We don’t believe there are individuals that we can parachute here [into] Missouri to persuade Missourians … to get vaccinated,” Knodell said. “Thankfully, our federal partners agree with that.”

That echoed similar sentiment expressed by Missouri governor Mike Parson. The Republican governor on Wednesday tweeted that he had directed the state’s health department to inform the federal government that “sending government employees or agents door-to-door to compel vaccination would NOT be an effective OR a welcome strategy in Missouri!”

Members of the Biden administration’s coronavirus “surge response team” began arriving in Missouri on Tuesday, local media reported. The state reportedly requested the help. A communications specialist is part of the team, the Springfield News-Leader reported Thursday. That person, who is working remotely, aims to help raise the vaccination rate.

About 40 per cent of Missouri residents are fully vaccinated, compared to about 47 per cent nationally, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

The state averaged 18.1 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people a day in the week ended July 8, the highest per capita rate in the US, according to the CDC.

The highly contagious Delta variant accounted for almost three-quarters of new infections in the state in the four weeks ended June 19, CDC data show. That is the highest proportion in the US, followed by Nevada at 39 per cent.

Parson’s administration had considered announcing a vaccine lottery offering a “substantial grand prize” and college scholarships, local media reported earlier this month. Several other US states have run incentive programmes with cash, scholarships, beer and even guns as prizes in an attempt to boost vaccination rates.

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