Get Testing and Vaxxed as COVID-19 Deaths Rise
By Dianne Anderson
Half of America is dealing with the Omicron surge, which in its first wave was supposed to be the less-lethal variant of COVID-19 Delta.
But that’s not the case under the highly transmissible stealth BA.2.
For the unvaccinated, the numbers this month are just as harrowing as last year, even as COVID cases start to wind down. At the rate the virus is going, deaths are increasing, now higher than it was during the Delta wave last year. Among the general population, about 2,200 are dying a day.
Between Alpha, Delta and Omicron, about 75,000 Blacks have died since the inception, with about one-third of the Black population in America now knows someone who has died from the virus.
And other potential variants may be worse, and health experts are still pushing the booster as the best protection.
Rhonda Smith, Executive Director of the California Black Health Network, said in the beginning stages of COVID-19 two years ago, the disconnect for the community was more about trying to get equal access to the vaccines.
Today, she said the situation has become more of a matter of personal choice. Across all ages, but especially among young adults, she still hears that the community is reluctant to get vaccinated for various odd reasons.
While the vaccine is not foolproof in preventing people from testing positive, she said it protects from the deadly effects of COVID-19.
“Whether you call it hesitancy or lack of understanding, I’m not sure, but I think it’s important that the community understands that first — COVID-19 is a public health issue, not a political one. Second, it could be a matter of life or death,” she said.
For the Black community, there is a problem of misinformation.
“In some cases intentionally, that has influenced people’s beliefs and decisions about the vaccine. I also think there’s still the level of trust, or mistrust of the government and medical community,” she said.
Much of the disconnect stems from the first wave of COVID-19, that the communication and messaging during the vaccine rollout was not effective.
“So, the level of knowledge and understanding about the vaccine was not optimal and continues to impact people’s decisions about getting vaccinated because of that,” she said.
Experts warn of more coronavirus variants on the horizon, and some have the potential to be more transmissible and more deadly than the current wave, but so far, almost all deaths are among the unvaccinated.
The CDC shows that those who are up to date with COVID-19 vaccines have the highest amount of protection. Compared to up-to-date adults, one report showed that unvaccinated adults had five times the risk of infection and more than 50 times the risk of COVID-19-associated death.
In Orange County, health advocate Ernesta Wright said her main focus has been to create COVID-19 awareness by pointing the community to factual information. She said that they are doing all they can to get the community linked to resources.
“We’re still responding as we’re in the pandemic and I’m still saying pandemic to let people know that it is still a sense of urgency,” Ernesta Wright, founder and CEO of The G.R.E.E.N Foundation.
Wright said they continue to build and collaborate statewide on the importance of getting tested and the vaccine.
“Even if you do not want to get vaccinated – which is an oxymoron – get tested to make sure you are not COVID positive so you can get treated, and you are not impacting family members and friends. We’re just constantly getting the messaging out through our platform,” she said.
She said it’s all about intentional messaging, and sharing the right information.
The GREEN Foundation is continuing to pair up and collaborate with several associations to overlay services, and help the community know where and how to access testing and vaccination sites.
“That’s the work we’re trying to do, is increase the level of vaccinations as well as information for the African American and African immigrants so so they can make informed decisions for themselves,” she said.
Coming up, CalOptima is hosting a COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic for Kids and the Community, and is inviting everyone over 5-years old to come out for the first, second and third doses of Pfizer and Moderna, and boosters.
On Saturday, February 19, the event will be held at Second Baptist Church from 9:00 to 1:00 p.m., located at 4300 Westminster Ave, Santa Ana.
A parent or guardian must be present with their child with proof of the child’s age. CalOptima will be on-site to check CalOptima Medi-Cal eligibility, and distribute $25 Member Health Rewards to eligible members/ The County of Orange Social Services Agency will also be on-site to provide Medi-Cal, CalFresh and CalWORKs enrollment.
In Los Angeles County, Black Women Rally reports that last week 56 Black People Died of COVID-19, a rate not seen since last February, even though new COVID-19 cases are down. It’s known as the Omicron effect.
The organization reports that in Los Angeles County the total number of diagnosed Black cases is at 121,415 with 2,455 deaths.
“Black Women Rally for Action – Los Angeles County mourns with all the family members, friends, and individuals who have experienced losses and illness,” the organization said.
They report a 25% decrease in weekly new COVID-19 cases among Blacks since the peak two weeks ago, which is down by 2,986 cases. However, there was a 300% increase in the number of weekly deaths among Blacks during that same period, up by 42 deaths.
The good news is that vaccinations are also up recently.
“2,878 Blacks, 12-year-olds and older, were vaccinated last week in Los Angeles County, compared to 2,517 the week before (up by 361 vaccinations.) This marks the highest number of Blacks vaccinated in a week since before Christmas 2021,” the report.
According to the health initiative at COVID19Black.org, the color of COVID is Black.
The organization reports that in the U.S., Black people make up only 12.4% of the overall population, that nearly one in four COVID-19 deaths is a Black person, and that one-third of the patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are Black.
For CBHN and other Black Health resources, see
For The G.R.E.E.N Foundation, see http://www.thegreenfoundation.net
For resources on the Black COVID Crisis, see https://covid19black.org/
See Black Women Rally for Action at http://www.blackwomenrallyforaction.org