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Missouri's Daily COVID Cases Have More Than Doubled In The Last 2 Weeks

NOEL KING, HOST:

Bill Kidd, a Missouri state representative, wrote on Facebook earlier this month that he'd gotten COVID-19. And then he wrote, no, we didn't get the vaccine; we're Republicans - and a smiley face emoji. He later deleted the post. But the COVID vaccine has become a partisan issue. About 40% of people in Missouri who are eligible are vaccinated. And in Missouri, daily cases have more than doubled in the last two weeks.

With me now is Republican Congressman Billy Long, who represents a district in southwest Missouri. Good morning to you, sir.

BILLY LONG: Good morning, Noel. How are you doing?

KING: I'm very well, thank you. Are you vaccinated?

LONG: You bet I am. I - and I encourage everyone to consider getting vaccinated. I'm not talking to the anti-vaxxers. I know I'm not going to change their mind. But what I've been trying to do is reach out to the people that are on the fence, that are worried.

Let me give you an example, Noel. I had a friend call last week. He said, can I ask you a personal question? I said, sure. He said, have you been vaccinated? I said, definitely. I said the minute that I was eligible for the vaccine, I went to my doctor - and that's what I'm recommending people do; go to your doctor - and I said, hey, am I a good candidate for this vaccine? He said, you are a very good candidate for the vaccine. I took the Pfizer vaccine. Everyone in my family has taken the vaccine. And I would highly, highly encourage people to take it.

KING: OK, what do you think of that Facebook comment by Representative Bill Kidd - I didn't get it because I'm a Republican, and then a smiley face, which I think tells us something about the nature of the post? But, you know, it's a serious situation.

LONG: This should not be politicized by either side of the aisle. There's enough, you know, partisanship in Washington, D.C. We do not need to politicize COVID's - the COVID vaccine. Kamala Harris refused to take the vaccine when she was campaigning because it was a Trump vaccine. And I think that...

KING: Is that true? I hadn't realized that.

LONG: Yes, the Democrats didn't want to take it because it was a Trump vaccine. They're doing it too fast. We don't think that, you know, you should trust the vaccine. That's exactly right. And it was repugnant then, it's repugnant now for either side to politicize this thing. This is a life-or-death situation. You need to do what is best for you, for your family.

And to continue the conversation with my friend the other day, he said, did you - after he said, did you get it, said, why? Are you not vaccinated? He said, no, I just can't get there. And he said, I'm 42 years old, and I'm healthy. I said, well, that's what the 45-year-old woman in Missouri said that left two children without a mother last week. She didn't want to take the vaccine - 45 years old - got COVID and deceased from it. So I'm not a doctor. I don't give, you know, medical advice, but I've been an advocate for the vaccine since the day it was available.

I took three days out of my schedule. I cleared my schedule. I toured six hospitals in my district. I toured two clinics and one vaccination center because at the time - I had a 91-year-old woman come up to me in a Village Inn restaurant with her 94-year-old husband. They were screaming at me 'cause they couldn't get vaccinated back then. And so I was doing a push.

And I wanted to talk to these first responders - the nurses, the doctors - that had their lives completely altered by dealing with COVID patients for over a year at that point. And the heartfelt story - I just wish I'd have bought stock in Kleenex before I started doing my tour because the stories that those nurses would tell you - and they were the last person to see the person that had just deceased for the last six months. They couldn't see their family. And I wanted to make sure that - we were having trouble with a certain needle. I can't remember the needle now, but - or syringe, I mean, and it didn't hold - it wasted half a dose. We were worried about wasting vaccine. We wanted to get shots in everyone's arms that was eligible.

And I went on - like I said, I took three days out of my schedule and did that tour. I'm - highly encouraged, but my local newspaper, because I'm a Republican, didn't print one drop of ink about that tour. My Springfield, Mo., News-Leader did not print one drop that I had done a three-day tour because it made me look like a decent human being. I went down to Joplin, and they put me on the front page of the paper, which is also in my district. I'm sitting with the nurses at the round table. So I just - you know, for my part, I suggest people do what I did. Go to your doctor. Consult with them. I'm not talking to Robert Kennedy Jr. He's an anti-vaxxer. I can't convince the anti-vaxxers. But if you're on the fence like my friend was, go out, talk to your doctor. And if they say you're a good candidate, get that shot in your arm.

KING: Republican Congressman Billy Long of Missouri, thank you so much.

LONG: You bet. Thank you, Noel.

KING: I want to add a clarification to something that Congressman Long said in that interview. He said Vice President Kamala Harris, quote, "refused to take the vaccine when she was campaigning." The fact is no COVID vaccine was available to the public in this country until after the presidential campaign ended. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.