More than a year since the country first shutdown, and the pandemic rages on. Concerns about the spread of the new delta variant prompt a renewed push to boost vaccination rates.
Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, emphasizes how much the new variant has become a concern because it is easier to transmit and more aggressive than prior versions of the coronavirus.
Although some businesses and public offices maintain mask mandates and social distancing protocols, many local and state governments have removed protections. The rush to open could give the misconception that the pandemic is over.
“The pandemic isn’t over; the pandemic is shifting,” Nunez-Smith told NewsOne during an interview Tuesday. “And so it is becoming more and more urgent to be vaccinated to be protected from the delta variant and other variants.”
Identified first in India, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has also sounded the alarm about the delta variant. According to the CDC, the delta variant is on track to becoming the dominant version of the cotronavirus in the United States. More than 50% of new COVID-19 cases are the delta variant.
Nunez-Smith explained that besides spreading more easily, the Delta variant could cause a more significant disease.
“We have several communities in the country where Delta is already the dominant version, or strain, of the virus,” Nunez-Smith said. “It makes us take a deep sigh because it does possess the opportunity to threaten the progress that we’ve made as a nation already in terms of COVID-19.”
The best data available shows that current vaccines will protect against the new variant. But persisting disparities in vaccination rates, particularly among young people, remain a concern.
“The reality is unvaccinated people are at risk,” Nunez-Smith bluntly stated. “Taking a gamble with COVID could land you, of course, in the hospital, or worse. But it also can leave you with a month, or even longer of debilitating symptoms, that make it hard for people to work or function and just not feeling well.”
Nunez-Smith also explained that the delta variant is coming for young people in a way not seen with previous virus variations. She said she also wants to disrupt the misconception that COVID-19 is only a threat to older people.
“When we look at the UK, we see that people 12 to 20 are getting hit really hard by Delta,” Nunez-Smith said.
Dr. Rachel Villanueva, the incoming president of the National Medical Association, stressed that hesitancy isn’t the only obstacle. During a recent discussion held by the National Birth Equity Collaborative, Villanueva pointed to ongoing vaccine access issues.
“We know that when we’ve asked people in black and brown communities, they really just want to get more information,” Villanueva explained. “We want to understand what we’re taking. We want to understand what we’re giving to our family members and that it’s safe.”
Created in 1895, the National Medical Association is the oldest organization committed to serving Black doctors and their communities.
“We have access issues,” continued Villanueva. “We need to make sure that the vaccines are getting into the communities that need to get them and not allowing people from other communities to come in and get vaccinated at a higher rate, which we know has been occurring.”
Angela Aina, executive director of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, also noted the need for increased investments in health communications and health care literacy, including equipping community-based providers with the information to answer questions about COVID-19 vaccines and the ongoing nature of the pandemic.
“Our government can be doing more investing back into the public health infrastructure, especially in this arena,” Aina said.
Speaking on rural access issues, Aina noted that many communities do not have easy access to some of the stores that may offer vaccine appointments.
“There’s not easy access to Kroger or to CVS,” said Aina. “A lot of our people are not always easily connected to those venues where the vaccine is currently being distributed.”
In her interview with NewsOne, Nunez-Smith agreed with the expert panel about responding to people’s questions and concerns with good verifiable information and continued public health education about the ongoing threat of COVID-19 and the benefits of vaccination.
She also pointed to efforts like an outreach campaign launched by relatives of those impacted by the Tuskegee experiment. Former Tuskegee Mayor Omar Neal told the Associated Press he wanted to save lives.
“I didn’t want people to use Tuskegee and what transpired there as a reason for not taking the vaccine,” explained Neal.
Neal’s uncle was among the Black men violated by the Tuskegee experiment. But Neal and other relatives want people to understand the history and how it differs from the current moment. This is particularly important as anti-vaccination groups target Black communities with misinformation labeled as proof of “medical apartheid.”
Asking questions is important. But once people have the information, Nunez-Smith advocates for an each one, teach one kind of approach to sharing good verifiable information and experiences with getting vaccinated.
“You got to get out, and you got to testify about it,” Nunez-Smith said.
Notable Black Folks Who Have Contracted COVID-19
1. Usain Bolt, Olympic gold medalist
1 of 59
2. Gil Bailey, radio pioneer2 of 59
3. Keisha Lance Bottoms, Atlanta mayorSource:Getty 3 of 59
4. Herman Cain, former presidential candidateSource:Getty 4 of 59
5. Nick Cannon, entertainerSource:Getty 5 of 59
6. Ben Carson, former HUD SecretarySource:Getty 6 of 59
7. Dave Chappelle, comedianSource:Getty 7 of 59
8. Rep. Bonnie Watson ColemanSource:Getty 8 of 59
9. Manu Dibango, musicianSource:Getty 9 of 59
10. Dennis Dickson, NYPD employee10 of 59
11. Kevin Durant, NBA starSource:Getty 11 of 59
12. Larry Edgeworth
12 of 59
Prayers to the family of NBC’s Larry Edgeworth 💔🙏🏽 and my former colleagues at 30 Rock. He died after testing positive for #coronavirus. Larry would always offer to help me ...even after I moved to CBS. He just wanted to see another brother win. #IAmMyBrothersKeeper Rest 🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/TyXbiHs30d— DeMarco Morgan (@DeMarcoReports) March 20, 2020
13. Kenneth "Babyface" EdmondsSource:Getty 13 of 59
14. Idris and Sabrina Dhowre Elba
14 of 59
This morning I tested positive for Covid 19. I feel ok, I have no symptoms so far but have been isolated since I found out about my possible exposure to the virus. Stay home people and be pragmatic. I will keep you updated on how I’m doing 👊🏾👊🏾 No panic. pic.twitter.com/Lg7HVMZglZ— Idris Elba (@idriselba) March 16, 2020
15. Patrick Ewing, basketball legendSource:Getty 15 of 59
16. Ronald Fenty, Rihanna's dadSource:Getty 16 of 59
17. Vivica A. Fox, actressSource:Getty 17 of 59
18. Jimmy Glenn, legendary boxing trainerSource:Getty 18 of 59
19. Rudy Gobert
19 of 59
20. Louis Gossett Jr., actor, philanthropistSource:Getty 20 of 59
21. Lee Green, former college hoops star
21 of 59
It is with much sadness to inform all in my SJU family that we lost Lee Green to Covid-19 today. A Parade All-American who played 3 years at #SJUBB Lee was our warrior on those teams. A true lock em up defender that relished shutting down the best opponents. RIP Lee🙏🏻 #gone2soon pic.twitter.com/X4TIPbVvoU— Ron Linfonte (@SJU5) March 24, 2020
22. Charles Gregory, Tyler Perry's makeup artrist
22 of 59
23. Lewis Hamilton, Formula One driverSource:Getty 23 of 59
24. Samuel Hargress Jr., owner of legendary Harlem nightclub
24 of 59
Thank You for your friendship Sam! 💔#RIP💔 Harlem's Paris Blues Jazz Club has been a celebrated local music joint since 1969, playing live jazz and blues nightly. It's owner and manager, Mr. Samuel Hargress Jr., has been in the club nearly every day for the past 51 years. 💫🔥💫 pic.twitter.com/oSM9Cbzzdb— B Michael (@bmichaelAmerica) April 15, 2020
25. Conan Harris, Rep. Ayanna Pressley's husbandSource:Getty 25 of 59
26. Antoine Hodge, opera singerSource:GoFundMe 26 of 59
27. Mike Huckaby, techno music pioneer and DJ
27 of 59
R.I.P Mike Huckaby. You will forever continue to change so many peoples lives with your music, technique and mentoring. These clips of Huck are from ‘Detroit The Blueprint Of Techno’ 💔 pic.twitter.com/8t8c83Uy2K— Dark Entries Records (@darkentriesrecs) April 25, 2020
28. Callum Hudson-OdoiSource:Getty 28 of 59
29. DL Hughley, comedian29 of 59
30. Ahmed Ismail Hussein, Somali singer
30 of 59
BREAKING: One of Somalia’s greatest artists has died in London after contracting Corona Virus. Ahmed Ismail Hussein “Hudeydi” known as the “King of Oud” has been in hospital for four days. He was 92. pic.twitter.com/iCii8vYVVv— Harun Maruf (@HarunMaruf) April 8, 2020
31. Wilson Roosevelt Jerman, former White House butler
31 of 59
Tonight on @fox5dc at 10p -— Shawn Yancy (@ShawnYancyTV) May 20, 2020
He served at the pleasure of 11 U.S. Presidents... during his 55 years at the White House.
Last weekend, he passed from COVID-19.
My exclusive interview with the granddaughter of White House butler, Wilson Jerman is next! pic.twitter.com/SBiXbQLiud
32. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, actor
32 of 59
33. Brad "Scarface" JordanSource:Getty 33 of 59
34. DeAndre Jordan, NBA starSource:Getty 34 of 59
35. Tim Lester, NFL starSource:Getty 35 of 59
36. James Mahoney, pulmonologist
36 of 59
Dr. James Mahoney at University Hospital of Brooklyn pic.twitter.com/SXBxNlzApr— Lieutenant Kijé (@BrianLemaire2) May 19, 2020
37. Ellis Marsalis Jr., musicianSource:Getty 37 of 59
38. DeRay McKesson, activistSource:Getty 38 of 59
39. Von Miller, NFL starSource:Getty 39 of 59
40. Donovan Mitchell40 of 59
41. Wisconsin Rep. Rep. Gwen MooreSource:Getty 41 of 59
42. Lloyd Porter, small business owner in Brooklyn
42 of 59
Devastated to hear Lloyd Porter has pass away from covid19. Lloyd was a pillar in Brooklyn. His coffee shop Breadstuy is where I met some of my closest friends. He sometimes hired people with records that couldn't easily find work. He believed in community. Rest well Brother— Blitz Bazawule (@BlitzAmbassador) May 7, 2020
43. Charley Pride, country music legendSource:Getty 43 of 59
44. Biden Adviser, Rep. Cedric RichmondSource:Getty 44 of 59
45. Arnie Robinson Jr., Olympian
45 of 59
Arnie Robinson Jr., who won the gold medal in the long jump at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, died on Dec. 2 at his home in San Diego. He was 72. https://t.co/lYnpSbWkzO— NYT Sports (@NYTSports) December 16, 2020
46. Wallace RoneySource:Getty 46 of 59
47. Marcus Smart47 of 59
48. Shaka Smart, University Of Texas Men's Basketball CoachSource:Getty 48 of 59
49. Troy Sneed, gospel singerSource:Getty 49 of 59
50. Oliver "DJ Black N Mild" Stokes Jr.
50 of 59
New Orleans bounce DJ and radio personality Black N Mild has died after testing positive for coronavirus. For the past 25 years, he also deejayed at countless clubs, parties and other private events across the southeast. pic.twitter.com/2e6mnKhiXQ— Eric Alper 🎧 (@ThatEricAlper) March 21, 2020
51. Michael Strahan, 'Good Morning America' host, former NFL starSource:Getty 51 of 59
52. Carole Sutton, actressSource:Getty 52 of 59
53. Jeffrey "DJ Jazzy Jeff" Townes53 of 59
54. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers head coachSource:Getty 54 of 59
55. Karl-Anthony Towns, NBA starSource:Getty 55 of 59
56. Jo Thompson, singerSource:Getty 56 of 59
57. Karl-Anthony Towns' parents, Jacqueline Cruz and Karl-Anthony Towns Sr.57 of 59
58. Juan Williams, Fox News HostSource:Getty 58 of 59
59. Randall Woodfin, Mayor of Birmingham, AlabamaSource:Getty 59 of 59
The Delta Variant Is On The Move: The Pandemic Isn’t Over, It’s Shifting was originally published on newsone.com