Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s point man on the state’s COVID-19 response urged thousands of state workers to get vaccinated last Thursday.

In a letter to workers, Acting Department of Health and Senior Services Director Robert Knodell said misinformation about vaccines is “baloney” and that vaccines can help bring the pandemic to an end.

He said there are “groups of people who have been actively working to discredit proven vaccine information, and many are sadly even cashing in big due to these types of efforts. At the same time, the false information is being consumed. It is being believed. And it is costing lives.”

“So enough is enough. The rhetoric from these individuals — the myths, conspiracy theories, the rumors with no valid context — is a bunch of baloney. Does a person at high risk or with a new cancer diagnosis run to TikTok or Facebook memes for medical advice?” Knodell wrote.

Knodell’s call for workers to get vaccines comes as other public and private sector employers are mandating workers get vaccines before they come to the office, factory or business.

Local numbers

On Thursday, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported 61 cases in the county from July 20-26. The positivity was 25.1 percent, down slowly, but the trajectory of positive cases has made some improvement in the county.

In May, after vaccines became widely available, Parson ordered state workers back to their offices after nearly a year of allowing some to work remotely.

But, the state’s vaccination rate has lagged, sticking at 41% as of Thursday.

And, the spread of the delta variant has begun infecting workers. In the state’s largest office building in the capital city, there have been 10 new cases this week.

Chris Moreland, spokesman for Parson’s Office of Administration, said there are a total of 45 active COVID-19 cases in the Harry S Truman State Office Building near the Capitol.

On Wednesday, two office suites in the building were temporarily closed for cleaning after positive tests were reported.

Other state agencies have seen outbreaks. The Department of Corrections currently lists 52 employees who have tested positive. Four of those were at the Licking prison.

In his letter, Knodell, who is Parson’s deputy chief of staff, said hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine have been safely administered, monitored and backed by high rates of effectiveness. 

“We all want COVID-19 to be behind us. But the situation will not be under control to the point we will have a semblance of ‘normal’ until we can control the spread. The best way to do that is through widespread vaccination,” he wrote.

Knodell also pitched the state’s vaccine lottery to the workers, urging them to enter to win $10,000. The deadline to enter is Aug. 11.

“Let’s not pretend we are invincible. Let’s stop this virus in its tracks, once and for good. Together,” Knodell wrote. 

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