Missouri's GOP governor lashes out at hospital for 'scaring' people into getting vaccinated as state faces COVID-19 surge
State of Missouri picture of Gov. Mike Parson.

With Springfield, Missouri in the midst of its worst COVID-19 crisis since the start of the pandemic, Republican Gov. Mike Parson responded Tuesday by attacking a local hospital system for its plan to require workers to get vaccinated.

"Health officials and hospital leaders are begging people to get vaccinated and warning that the highly-contagious delta variant is overwhelming Springfield's hospitals," the Kansas City Star reports. "The facilities are caring for the most COVID patients ever and city officials have canceled a major upcoming festival because of the spreading variant. But the Republican governor said COVID messaging coming from southwest Missouri amounted to a blame game. He warned health officials against scaring residents into getting vaccinated."

On Tuesday morning, at a ceremonial bill signing in Kansas City, Parson responded to an announcement from Mercy. which operates hospitals across the region, saying it will require workers to be vaccinated beginning in September. Missouri currently has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.

"We just need to make sure that people are not scared thinking they're doing something wrong going to a hospital," Parson said. "And I think the message you're seeing out of southwest Missouri is more people just trying to blame somebody for this virus. The virus itself is to blame. .... We just got to figure out how we deal with it and I think health care, especially health care leaders, really need to be encouraging people the importance of the vaccine, instead of trying to force people to take a vaccine or literally just scare them into taking a vaccine because we know that doesn't work."

Last week, after President Joe Biden mentioned the possibility of door-to-door promotion of vaccinations, Parson wrote on Twitter: "I have directed our health department to let the federal government know that sending government employees or agents door-to-door to compel vaccination would NOT be an effective OR a welcome strategy in Missouri!"

Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, responded to Parson by saying that the outreach would be conducted by "local trusted messengers," adding that mischaracterizing the effort amounted to "doing a disservice to the country," according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"This is important work that's leading to more vaccinations and it's done by people who care about the health of their family, friends and neighbors," Zients said.

Parson contracted COVID last year after going forward with an event at a state building even though his office had been warned about a cluster of cases among workers there.