BELLEVILLE, Ill. — There were few cars coming through the free vaccine clinic on Main Street in Belleville Thursday. The staff is ready, supplies and stickers laid out next to a stack of fresh paperwork waiting for patients to fill in the blanks.
One of the people pulling through is Valarie Mueth, who said she brought her mom for a shot because the more contagious delta variant is now pushing local hospital rates higher.
"I think that they opened everything, everyone threw the masks away and started acting like the pandemic was completely gone. And it's not," Mueth said.
"I didn't fool myself into thinking this was behind us, but seeing numbers rising as fast as they are, is pretty shocking," Dr. Jiggar Hindia said.
Hindia, a Washington University physician and ICU Director of Memorial Hospital Belleville, said the hospital had zero patients at a point in May. They're now seeing an average of 10 to 15 at any given time.
Hindia said the people coming through these doors are significantly younger than patients a year ago, and the hospital leaders say 98% of their patients are unvaccinated.
The region's rolling average for the test positivity rate is just below 8%. If it gets above 8% for three days, that would trigger a return of restrictions.
"It's frustrating because it is preventable," Hindia said. "We could've seen a continued decline in numbers instead of a resurgence."
As for Mueth, she'll be back at the vaccine clinic in mid-August, and she hopes others will come through too.
"You'll protect all the people you love and even the people you don't know," Mueth said.