How Covid-19 Has Upended Life in Undervaccinated Arkansas

How Covid-19 Has Upended Life in Undervaccinated Arkansas

MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. — When the boat factory in this leafy Ozark Mountains city offered free coronavirus vaccinations this spring, Susan Johnson, 62, a receptionist there, declined the offer, figuring she was protected as long as she never left her house without a mask.

Linda Marion, 68, a widow with chronic pulmonary disease, worried that a vaccination might actually trigger Covid-19 and kill her. Barbara Billigmeier, 74, an avid golfer who retired here from California, believed she did not need it because “I never get sick.”

Last week, all three were patients on 2 West, an overflow ward that is now largely devoted to treating Covid-19 at Baxter Regional Medical Center, the largest hospital in north-central Arkansas. Mrs. Billigmeier said the scariest part was that “you can’t breathe.” For 10 days, Ms. Johnson had relied on supplemental oxygen being fed to her lungs through nasal tubes.

Ms. Marion said that at one point, she felt so sick and frightened that she wanted to give up. “It was just terrible,” she said. “I felt like I couldn’t take it.”

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