by Natasha Korecki, POLITICO
OSAGE BEACH, Mo.—The petite blonde bartender in ripped jean shorts bounced to each side of a square-shaped bar as women in bikinis and shirtless men lined up on a sweltering afternoon to order Bud Light, vodka and soda, and piles of nachos at this dockside retreat in the Lake of the Ozarks region.
In a county designated a Covid hot spot, in a state with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation, and in a region where hospitals are nearing capacity as the Delta variant takes hold, Erin, a bartender at Backwater Jack’s, couldn’t be in a more vulnerable position. She interacts closely with hundreds of maskless customers—sometimes on a single day. She knows most of them are probably not vaccinated. And she doesn’t care. She isn’t either.
“I’m living, breathing proof—I’ve not been sick once. I’ve been as hands-on as you can be with people from everywhere,” Erin said, as a motorboat thundered to the dock and another group of customers climbed out. Like others who spoke for this article, she asked to go only by her first name. She said she’d heard a rumor—common among vaccine skeptics but also plainly false—that “more people are dying from getting the vaccine this week.”
“Personally,” Erin added, “I feel like my immune system is doing a good job, so why pump it full of something that we don’t really know what it is?”
Those interviewed here had various reasons for not getting the vaccine. They felt overwhelmed by what they described as near-hysterical media coverage of the pandemic. They suspected greedy pharmaceutical companies were simply trying to line their pockets. Offers of money and incentives in exchange for the shot were met with even more skepticism.
“Now why would they be giving it away for free?” asked A. McNay, as he sat at Shorty Pants Lounge, another packed venue less than 15 minutes away from Backwater Jack’s. McNay asked that his full name not be used. Like many people here, he was suspicious of the government—and the media—and didn’t want too much of his personal information revealed. “If you think you can trust your government,” he said, “ask the Native Americans.”