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Political Radar: Full ER, COVID-19 Delta variant, & misinformation among challenges for Huntington’s top doctor

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HUNTINGTON, Ind. (WPTA21) - In August, COVID-19 spread through Huntington rapidly, and its presence remains strong.

As of September 16, the county is at the orange advisory level, with an average of 449 infections per 100,000 residents.

Last month, the Huntington County Health Department issued a warning to the public, revealing that the local hospital was completely full, and they were seeing “double the normal amount of patients”.

RELATED: COVID cases prompt advisory from local health department, citing ER overload

Even now, Huntington County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Pflieger says the situation isn’t improving quickly.

“It’s still a problem where we are. There is an immense amount of people in the hospital,” he said, “it’s a real thing.”

Pflieger says one of his biggest challenges, is dispelling misinformation on the COVID-19 vaccine, protection even more important now, to fight off the coronavirus’ new strain.

“It spreads quicker, easier, and you’re more likely to get sick with this, because it has such a high viral load,” he told us, “you’re going to have a date with the coronavirus sometime, at some point. It’s just a question of, ‘how are you going to do that?’ Are you going to wear protection or are you not going to wear protection?”

“There’s a lot of people who are feeling like their immune system is enough, and that they’re protected,” he continued, “and that’s a false sense of security.”

Currently, 47.3% of Huntington County is fully vaccinated.

RELATED: Huntington County’s Public Health Officer urges residents to get vaccinated, mask up indoors

Pflieger says, though some skepticism can be healthy, he blames in part, social media, for encouraging ‘confirmation bias’.

He believes, people “researching” the vaccine, will often find sources that align with their opinions and/or political views. 

Algorithms on social media websites will feed similar content to the consumer, so the “research” isn’t necessarily from credible and/or opposing points-of-view.

Pflieger points to recent studies, which show the COVID-19 vaccines are effective.

“It’s dropped our death rate dramatically. The people who have been vaccinated are not really the people being hospitalized. It’s a very tiny sliver of people who have been vaccinated, who have been in the hospital,” he explained, “the people who are getting this really bad illness, ending up in the hospital, they’re the unvaccinated. Now again, you don’t trust the science? Now, we’ve been doing this for a year! We have data for a year on these things. When are you going to trust the science?”

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Daniel Beals

Daniel Beals is the producer of the ABC21 feature franchise “21Country”. He is constantly on the lookout for ideas that capture the “people, places, things, and history” that makes Northeast Indiana unique. Feel free to reach out:

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