EASTON — Maryland has lifted its pandemic restrictions, overseen a declining death rate this spring and summer from COVID-19 and reached a higher vaccinated population than most states — but some Mid-Shore residents are still hesitant to say the pandemic is winding down.
Concerns linger in Maryland and the U.S. over the Delta variant of the coronavirus and a slowing vaccination rate. Health officials nationwide continue to battle vaccine hesitancies and opposition.
Local residents say the country is trending in the right direction. But they are split on whether the pandemic is actually slowing down or if it has reached a standstill. They are also split on COVID vaccine efforts and renewed mask mandates in other parts of the country.
“I think Maryland has done a very good job with vaccinations, but when you get into Southern states, they’re pushing not getting vaccinations and they’re killing” people, said Mimi Eckerlin, of Easton, who called the Delta variant “scary.”
Eckerlin said the U.S. needs to get over a 70% vaccination rate if it wants to end the pandemic. She also cited concerns with the amount of misinformation online. “Health misinformation” has has been a leading contributor to vaccine hesitancy, according to President Joe Biden and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.
Eckerlin said she “just can’t imagine people believing what’s on the internet,” and that the information is effectively stopping them from getting vaccinated. “As long as you got propaganda stations,” she added, “you’re never going to convince the other people.”
Susan McClyment, of Crisfield, disagrees. She said the pandemic is “on hold” for now, but she believes a lot of it is political and symbolic of government overreach.
“I think it’s way blown out of proportion for political reasons,” said McClyment, who was recently diagnosed with cancer. She has not been vaccinated, but isn’t concerned about catching COVID-19.
McClyment said mask mandates were never needed, and she actually had to transfer between jobs because she disagreed with some enforcement protocols. She does not want to see more restrictions.
Maryland’s has fully vaccinated 57.4% of the state’s population, the sixth highest in the nation. Maryland saw 130 COVID deaths last month, and 95% of those positive COVID-19 cases and 93% of hospitalizations came from the unvaccinated population, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
The Delta variant, which originated in India in December 2020, is fast becoming the most dominant strain, and is thought to be more contagious than the last dominant strain, the Alpha variant.
That has many residents worried. Ieania Rosato, of Easton, is wearing a mask to every business and event she goes out to. She’s undergoing chemotherapy and is at a heightened risk from severe illness if she catches the novel coronavirus.
Rosato said COVID-19 is still a serious risk. She called for another mask mandate and more restrictions.
“I don’t think (we) should open up because a lot of people lie about getting vaccinated,” said Rosato. “And they go into your job and get you sick.”
Recently, Los Angeles County brought back its mask mandate over concerns about the Delta variant.
Other residents are concerned about vaccine mandates and new government restrictions.
“If people don’t want to get it, they don’t have to get it,” said Robert Geisler, of Cambridge. “It’s the American way.”
Geisler called Los Angeles “crazy” for reversing course on the lifted mask mandate. His wife, Cathy Geisler, added that their life has returned to normal and they felt safe, even with the spread of the Delta variant.
“I’m not worried about that,” she said. “I’m just worried about the government.”