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Rural counties doing best, and worst, at vaccinations

By Jim Salter The Associated Press

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — Rural Missouri counties are both the most and least successful at getting COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of residents, according to data from the state’s coronavirus dashboard on Wednesday.

Shelby County, with just 6,400 residents in a remote area of northeast Missouri, has provided at least one dose of the vaccine to 20.7% of residents. Atchison County, with just under 6,000 residents in Missouri’s far northwestern corner, has vaccinated 20.2% of residents, followed by Worth County at 18.2%.

Among the top 15 counties for vaccinations, just one — Cape Girardeau County — has more than 50,000 residents. Cape Girardeau County is tied for fourth with Gasconade County, where 17% of residents have received a dose.

Pulaski County, which is home to Fort Leonard Wood and has 52,000 residents, has the lowest vaccination rate at just 4.2%, followed by other outstate counties — Newton at 4.4%, McDonald at 4.7%, Crawford at 5.2% and Pemiscot at 5.5%.

Overall, 10.6% of Missourians have received at least one dose, and data shows the two urban areas lag behind.

Some St. Louis area leaders have raised concerns that the region is not getting its fair share of vaccine, prompting an angry rebuke from Gov. Mike Parson. The Republican governor last week accused the region’s leaders — particularly Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force — of using “cherry-picked” data.

The information on the state dashboard shows that just 7.8% of Jackson County residents have received a shot. In the St. Louis region, vaccination rates were 9.3% in the city, 7.2% in St. Louis County, 8.2% in St. Charles County and just 6.1% in Jefferson County.

The number of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to decline. The state on Wednesday reported 598 new cases and 12 new deaths. The state has reported 472,741 confirmed cases and 7,470 deaths since the pandemic began.

With hospitalizations also on the decline, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced that the county is easing restrictions on youth and adult sports.

Effective Wednesday, the county will allow competitive games and tournaments for all sports as long as only two teams are present on the field or court at the same time. Limits continue on the number of spectators.

Restrictions had been in place since September, drawing protests from parents and athletes.